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Zion Williamson has been sidelined since January 2 due to a right hamstring injury which re-aggravated in February. While he's now cleared to return, the timeline for his return remains uncertain.
The New Orleans Pelicans are currently in a Western Conference play-in race, so their success depends on Williamson's health. Without him, those goals may prove even more challenging to attain.
Zion Williamson's return date from a hamstring injury remains uncertain. His first evaluation since the injury last month was positive, yet he hasn't played on the court since January 2.
After 29 games without their All-Star forward, the New Orleans Pelicans have fallen to 12th in the Western Conference and out of the play-in race. General manager David Griffin must act quickly in order to get Williamson back before the playoffs begin.
On Wednesday, Williamson made progress toward his return date; however, the exact timing remains uncertain. It's anticipated that he will need at least two weeks to recover before playing again and may not play again until April 9 if all goes according to plan.
Williamson has played like an All-NBA player this season, averaging 26 points per game and shooting 60.2% from the field. Unfortunately for his teammates, they haven't quite reached their full potential without him; as of 29-27 they sit half a game behind fourth-place Phoenix Suns in the West with a 35-37 record overall.
When Williamson is healthy and playing for New Orleans, they outscore their opponents by 7.3 points per 100 possessions. He's also averaging seven rebounds a game and has become an unbeatable matchup for opponents. At 6-foot-6 inches tall, Williamson boasts remarkable athleticism, quickness and touch around the rim that make him difficult to stop.
He's leading the Pelicans to victories and it appears he could be their most dominant player this season. Averaging 26.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, he has helped propel them to 17-12 record in 29 games this year with him on the court.
In addition to Williamson, the Pelicans have relied heavily on Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum this season despite their injury issues. Through 28 games that the trio has played together, they have averaged 20.8 points per contest.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans have been unable to capitalize on their talent without Ingram and Williamson. With just one win in 13 games, they are now 12th in the Western Conference - even though Denver Nuggets are just one game behind them in the standings with atop spot; even with Williamson back, it appears unlikely that the Pels will make playoff contention even with Ingram and Williamson returning.
The New Orleans Pelicans have faltered since their hot start, sitting outside of the play-in spot in the Western Conference. But one bright spot amid their recent losses has been star player Zion Williamson. Although he has missed more games than expected so far this season, his return remains uncertain as of February 13th.
At first it was expected that Williamson would be out for three weeks; however, his absence has extended further than anticipated and now looks likely to include most of the remainder of the regular season. While this has caused great distress to the team, hopefully they can find a way to remain competitive without their star player.
Williamson has made 29 starts this season and averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals. His field goal percentage of 60.8 percent and three-point range shooting percentage of 37.0% have him leading all scorers this year.
He earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team this year and will likely make an All-Star selection as a starter at some point during his career. As the fourth youngest player to ever participate in an All-Star game, he is already one of the most exciting players in the NBA.
His high-flying dunks make him unique, but he also has an impressive shooting stroke. At 61.5% effective field goal percentage and 37% from three-point range, he's on track for a career high.
The 21-year-old is an impressive natural athlete whose strength, athleticism and leaping prowess have made him one of the most talked about young players in the NBA. His impressive skillset and hard work have won him admirers from fans and media alike.
Born on July 6, 2000 in Salisbury, North Carolina to Lateef and Sharonda Sampson, Williamson has an innate talent set shaped by his mother's experience as a former high school basketball coach. Growing up with such guidance helped shape him into the person he is today - with many skillsets that only she could provide.
He began playing basketball at age five and quickly rose to become a star. Graduating from Mayo High School in Darlington, South Carolina in 2022, he was selected as the number one overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Zion Williamson's return from hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined since January makes the New Orleans Pelicans much more formidable in the postseason. While an exact date for his return remains uncertain, Williamson could make a major impact for his team as they look to build momentum heading into the playoffs.
Williamson, 21, has been averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season; his production has helped the Pelicans climb to the top of the Western Conference standings. Additionally, he's established himself as one of the NBA's most efficient players.
He's also shown an aptitude for recognizing passing lanes and closing them off on defense, which helped Duke capture the National Championship last year. His dunks are often the highlight of games, but they're only part of the story.
Williamson's remarkable scoring prowess in halfcourt sets is one of his defining traits. He averages 26 points there and his shooting percentage is at a career high - an incredible feat!
His versatility on the defensive end has been a crucial factor in helping the Pelicans win close games this season, with his 1.9 steals per game ranking fourth among all NBA players. He's especially effective when guarding opposing big men, as evidenced by his performance against Denver Nuggets this week where he recorded eight steals and four blocks in just 31 minutes of action.
Although the Pelicans made the playoffs without their star forward this year, it's doubtful they would have been able to compete with West's top teams without him. Additionally, he missed almost all of last season due to a foot injury and parts of his first two seasons due to various ailments; even if he were healthy again next season there is no guarantee he can help New Orleans return to the postseason within two more years.
The Pelicans have already secured a place in the play-in tournament, and if they advance, they must decide whether or not to bring Williamson back into their lineup. Their 32-34 record isn't enough for eighth seed status; if Williamson continues his current struggles, he could even miss out on postseason action altogether.
Last week, Zion Williamson was cleared to return from his hamstring injury; however, there's still a good chance he won't be back before April. That is because the New Orleans Pelicans are competing for a spot in the NBA play-in tournament and Williamson's absence has caused them to lose three straight games since the All-Star break.
The team's schedule isn't particularly challenging, and they don't have any games against top-10 teams in the next two weeks. That means Williamson should get as much rest as possible during the regular season.
However, that also means the team could be playing catch up in the standings if he were to return before then; which would be an enormous setback. At present, they sit 12th in West and are just half a game behind the Lakers; however, much depends on how they perform during their next four games.
Zion's teammates, such as Anthony Davis and Julius Randle, have been dominating in his absence with an average of 37.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game over those four matches. That will likely be enough to sustain them through the rest of the season and make them a legitimate playoff threat.
According to David Griffin of the New Orleans Pelicans, Williamson is expected to miss at least another couple weeks following the All-Star break due to an ongoing right hamstring issue that has kept him out since January 2. It appears likely that he won't be ready to participate in this year's All-Star game either.
After several weeks of conditioning during the All-Star break, he believes his hamstring will be ready for him when he returns. They will then assess whether it's safe to put him back on the court soon after returning from break.
It remains uncertain when Williamson will return to the court, but he is expected to remain sidelined until at least the end of this season. It's possible he could return in time for the playoffs, but it may require extra effort and rest.