Power forward Zion Williamson exited a preseason game against the Miami Heat with an ankle injury, but the New Orleans Pelicans downplayed the incident and updated his progress as day-to-day.
The injury scare occurred early in the second quarter when Williamson rolled his ankle after getting tied up with Heat center Dewayne Dedmon. Williamson popped right back up after his tumble and played a couple of more minutes before getting subbed out.
“I’m fine,” Williamson told reporters after the game.
The Pelicans sat Williamson the rest of the game citing left ankle soreness.
I want to use the right term, but in the moment, it didn’t feel too good,” added Williamson. “It was one of those things that happened. Played a few minutes after that, felt fine, then they sent me (to the locker room) just to double-check.”
Williamson scored 11 points, four assists, and two rebounds in 11 minutes of action. He shot 3-for-7 from the floor and knocked down 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
“He’s doing fine,” said head coach Willie Green. “He’ll be day to day.”
The Pelicans will keep Williamson out of their final preseason game on Friday.
The Pelicans meet the Brooklyn Nets in their season opener next Wednesday at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
Zion: History of Injuries
Williamson, the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, missed the entire 2021-22 season recovering from a fractured right foot and subsequent surgery. Williamson encountered multiple setbacks in his rehab. Whenever he got close to rejoining the Pelicans, he experienced swelling or pain, so the team shut him down.
Late into last season, a viral video made the rounds with Williamson throwing down a monstrous dunk during a solo workout. It led to speculation he could return to the team in time for the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, but Williamson wasn’t ready in time.
Williamson began his NBA career on the injured list. A knee injury during an NBA Summer League game delayed his pro debut until January 2020. He appeared in just 24 games as a rookie, but looked great in the few games he played, averaging 22.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He also shot an impressive 43% from 3-point range. The NBA paused the regular season in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Williamson logged only 24 games during his first year in the NBA.
During his second season with the Pelicans, Williamson earned a spot on the NBA All-Star team. He averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in 2020-21. He appeared in 61 games before he fractured the ring finger on his left hand and missed the last two weeks of the regular season.
In the summer of 2021, Williamson fractured his right foot while working out. The Pelicans set an initial timeline for Williamson to return in December of last year. His foot never healed in time for him to suit up last season and he missed all 82 games.
Betting on the Pelicans and a Healthy Zion
Williamson signed a contract extension in the offseason, which could turn into a max contract if he wins the MVP or gets named to the All-NBA team. When he’s on the court, Williamson lived up to the hype as the coveted #1 pick. However, numerous injuries kept him out of the lineup since he left Duke. The Pelicans structured his contract to reward a healthy Williamson. At the same time, they don’t want to be on the hook for a max contract with a player who’s constantly injured.
The Pelicans are +400 odds to win the Southwest Division as the third favorite on DraftKings’ future board behind the Memphis Grizzlies (+105) and the Dallas Mavericks (+140).
Oddsmakers project the Pelicans will win 44 or so games this season. They were 36-46 last season, but secured the #8 playoff seed via the Western Conference Play-in Tournament. A lot of their success in the upcoming season hinges upon Williamson. However, a seed of doubt has already been planted about his long-term health after the ankle injury on Wednesday night.
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