Zion Williamson took another step toward his return to the court on Wednesday as the team officially cleared him to resume basketball activities. However, he will not be playing in games for the Pelicans for at least two weeks, which is when he will be reevaluated, the team said.
Williamson is dealing with a right hamstring strain, which has kept him out of New Orleans’ lineup since suffering it on Jan. 2. Originally, Williamson was set to miss at least three weeks with the injury, but the time frame has stretched well beyond that.
He was ruled out for the All-Star Game in mid-February when he suffered a setback in his recovery and was slated then to miss “multiple weeks past the All-Star break,” which took place from Feb. 18-23. In early March, the team said he would miss at least another two weeks as well.
The team also provided a medical update on guard Jose Alvarado, who has missed the last 10 games due to a stress reaction in his right tibia.
Even if both Williamson and Alvarado return in two weeks, that would put him back on the court on April 5 when the Pelicans host the Memphis Grizzlies. There are only two games left in the Pelicans’ season after that and they are in the midst of the Play-In Tournament chase, trailing the No. 10-seeded Utah Jazz by 1/2 a game entering Wednesday’s slate.
At the time of his injury, the Pelicans were 23-14 and among the top teams in the Western Conference. Williamson’s absence, coupled with that of fellow frontcourt standout Brandon Ingram, contributed to the Pelicans going 12-23 and falling quickly in the West standings. Although Ingram has been back with the Pelicans since Jan. 25, the team endured a 10-game losing streak from Jan. 16-Feb. 2 that pushed it back in the chase.
The 22-year-old Williamson, who was selected as an All-Star starter, has averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists over 29 games this season.
Drafted first overall out of Duke in 2019, Williamson missed all of the 2021-22 season with a foot injury and most of his rookie season with a knee injury.
Since turning pro, he has played in a combined total of 114 games out of 292 regular season games and none of New Orleans’ eight postseason games.
Last summer, Williamson signed five-year rookie max extension with New Orleans with a value ranging between $193 million and $231 million, based on incentives.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.