Zion Williamson is coming soon to an arena near you.
The Pelicans rookie, who has yet to play a single second in a regular season game after undergoing surgery on his right knee back in October, finally received some good news. New Orleans has given Williamson a real, actual return date following months of questions and anticipation from media and fans alike.
Williamson briefly showed the kind of force he can be during the preseason, averaging 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in four games. If he is even close to that version of himself, the Pelicans might not be completely out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
As exciting as this development may be, let's just start with his first game. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Williamson's debut with the Pelicans.
When is Zion Williamson's NBA return?
- Date: Wednesday, Jan. 22
- Start time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told reporters on Jan. 15 that he anticipates Williamson will be available for New Orleans' home game against the Spurs on Jan. 22.
"This process has been one that's been really, really good," Griffin said. "We've learned a lot more than we've probably taught him, frankly. He's getting to the point where we actually think he's as ready as he believes he is. Everything's moving in the right direction."
David Griffin addresses the media following practice on 1/15 https://t.co/B97lldOdMf— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 15, 2020
How to watch Pelicans vs. Spurs
- TV channel: ESPN
- Live stream: Watch ESPN
Pelicans vs. Spurs has bumped Nuggets vs. Rockets off the national television schedule, an unsurprising move considering the audience Williamson is likely to attract. You can also live-stream the game via Watch ESPN.
What is Zion Williamson's injury?
The Pelicans couldn't determine the exact moment when Williamson hurt his knee, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, but coach Alvin Gentry suggested the injury may have occurred during a preseason game on Oct. 13 against the Spurs. Williamson informed the Pelicans on Oct. 16 he was feeling tightness in his knee — there was no pain or swelling — and a precautionary MRI on Oct. 17 revealed a torn right lateral meniscus.
Following arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus, Williamson was initially estimated to be out six to eight weeks, per a team statement. Using the NBA's Opening Night (Oct. 22) as a starting point, a full eight weeks would have pushed his debut date back to Dec. 17.
However, Williamson was held out beyond that window, and his recovery extended into 2020. Despite the long wait, New Orleans never considered holding Williamson out for the entire season.
"The nature of his injury wasn't such that that was what was called for," Griffin said. "Other players that have had to make that determination, I think in almost every case they had a much more significant surgery. Blake Griffin fractured a kneecap. That's a different issue. Zion knew from the very beginning that he was going to be able to play, and he wanted to play.
"He's told you he hasn't been overly happy with me that he hasn't played yet. It was never a thought that he wasn't gonna play."
Pelicans schedule 2020
Here are the Pelicans' next 10 games:
|Jan. 18||vs. Clippers||3:30 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Jan. 20||at Grizzlies||5 p.m. ET||TNT|
|Jan. 22||vs. Spurs||9:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 24||vs. Nuggets||8 p.m. ET||—|
|Jan. 26||vs. Celtics||6 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 28||at Cavaliers||7:30 p.m. ET||—|
|Jan. 31||vs. Grizzlies||8 p.m. ET||—|
|Feb. 2||at Rockets||2 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Feb. 4||vs. Bucks||7:30 p.m. ET||TNT|
|Feb. 6||at Bulls||8 p.m. ET||—|