Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full basketball activities, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, in what will be a boost to the New Orleans Pelicans, who are one of the NBA's worst teams.
Williamson has been unavailable since breaking his fifth metatarsal during the offseason and undergoing surgery to repair the damage and help speed the recovery process. Williamson reportedly broke his foot during solo workouts leading up to NBA summer league.
The last time Zion Williamson returned from injury, the Pelicans were extremely cautious with how they ramped him up to full minutes - something which frustrated the young star. And while the Pelicans (4-16) are indeed struggling, it remains to be seen how they will handle his reintergration this time. Without the potential of a playoff run, there should be no reason to push the young star.
For New Orleans, Williamson's return can't come soon enough, as they continue to struggle and still need to build chemistry and get a feel for playing with the dynamic player. Injuries have been an issue for Williamson, who has yet to play a full season. He played in just 24 games as a rookie and then 61 games last season.
Without their star player, the Pelicans have languished, especially on offense, ranking 26th in the league, averaging just 103.6 points per 100 possessions. They also lost their other scorer, Brandon Ingram, for seven games, all losses. Williamson, who was among the league leaders in finishes at the rim last season, should help the Pelicans become more fearsome on offense.
In Williamson's absence, New Orleans' overreliance on their superstar wing has been laid bare. Worryingly, Williamson's camp has already sounded out the possibility of the young star being disillusioned with the franchise and its lack of competitiveness throughout the roster.
When a star player is out with an injury, one of the best ways to show him there's a long-term future with the franchise is to win games without his help.
Take Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards as an example. Beal was making noise about being unhappy with the Wizards and made clear his desire to compete at the highest level. So, the Wizards (11-7) struck a trade to deepen their roster, and currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.
New Orleans made similar moves during the offseason, acquiring Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte' Graham to add firepower and defensive ability, but the Pelicans haven't seen a boost.
Without Williamson, the Pelicans miss his 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, especially when they utilized him as a point-forward for most of last season.
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Whenever Williamson returns, New Orleans can resume the reconstruction of its franchise.