Zion Williamson is back.
I believe I have said and/or written these words close to a handful of times over the past few years. This time, it’s been more than 10 months since we last saw Williamson in game action in a New Orleans Pelicans uniform.
Earlier this week, in preseason action, he made his return to the court after missing 53 games last season. Last year’s injury was a hamstring injury on Jan. 2. Though I am not a doctor, my experience as a sports fan tells me a hamstring issue usually causes athletes to miss a month at the most. Not with Zion. He missed the rest of the season.
Zion’s return this week led to a 12 point, five rebounds and five assists performance.
Fans are just happy to see Zion on the court actually playing basketball. After all, Williamson’s missed more regular games (214) than he’s played (144) since joining the NBA in 2019. Nagging injuries that most attribute to his diet and lack of conditioning.
Williamson reportedly acknowledged his critics this summer and vowed that he would take steps to improve his conditioning and his diet. Vows that we have heard before. In other words, fans will believe it when they see it.
A committed Zion is good for the league. His explosive moves followed by massive dunks seems unmatched. New Orleans needs it and need him on the court. At this point, the Pelicans would gladly take 61 games from the uber-talented power forward, considering he’s hit the floor for that many contests only once throughout his career.
The Pelicans have been patient. That is for sure. They also opened up their wallets. Williamson enters 2023-24 in Year 1 of a five-year, $194 million dollar contract extension.
The extension was extremely generous. The Pelicans are clearly hoping the off-court drama will subside. And maybe it will. To Williamson’s credit, the 23-year-old former No. 1 overall pick is doing his part to stave off injury. He’s spent the entire offseason working out in New Orleans and has even worked out with the New Orleans Saints.
Under coach Willie Green, New Orleans possesses enough young talent to compete without Williamson, especially with Brandon Ingram starting to come into his own during Williamson’s absence. But competing and contending are different. A committed and healthy Zion would likely lead to contending for a NBA title.