Pelicans’ Williamson out at first week of regular season

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Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, front left, watches from the sideline in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is now expected to miss at least the first week of the regular season because his recovery from surgery to repair a right foot fracture is taking longer than anticipated.

“Nothing has gone wrong and there is no setback,” Pelicans basketball operations chief David Griffin said after practice Thursday, adding that Williamson will be re-evaluated in about two-and-a-half weeks. “It just takes a certain period of time” for bones to heal and “every player is different.”

The Pelicans first made public Williamson’s health status on the eve of training camp last month, and Williamson said then that he planned to be ready to play in time for New Orleans’ regular season opener Oct. 20 against Philadelphia.

Griffin said that while doctors are “very encouraged” by the progress of Williamson’s recovery, they want him to delay his return until after they’ve had an opportunity to re-evaluate bone scans of his repaired foot.

The Pelicans have seven regular season games scheduled between their opener and the end of October.

Doctors who reviewed images of Williamson’s foot this week “were very encouraged by the healing evidence there,” Griffin said. “They are very optimistic he will recover from this, and they have cleared him to continue his progression.”

The 21-year-old Williamson, who is 6-foot-7 and about 280 pounds, was cleared Wednesday to do running and one-on-none individual work, which he began Thursday morning, Griffin said.

“Given the nature of bone healing, there is no fixed timeline for his return to game action, but the doctors are very encouraged by this last batch of images,” Griffin said. “It’s everyone’s goal that Zion return to play as soon as is safely possible.”

Williamson, a former Duke star selected first overall in the 2019 NBA draft, averaged 27 points per game in 61 contests last season. He was limited to just 24 games his rookie campaign, largely because of a prolonged rehabilitation from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

While the initial timeline for his return from knee surgery was six to eight weeks, he wound up missing more than half of the season before making his NBA debut in late January of 2020.

At the end of last season, Williamson missed New Orleans’ final six games after fracturing his left ring finger.

The Pelicans lost five of those six games and finished two games out of the final play-in spot for the Western Conference playoffs.

Williamson said he injured his foot during offseason training this past summer, adding that he may have been pushing himself too hard because of his desire to get his first taste of the NBA playoffs this season.

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