Zion Williamson may not be back until December after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Monday.
The New Orleans Pelicans released an update on the star rookie, stating that he had surgery to address a torn right lateral meniscus. His recovery timetable is being put at six to eight weeks.
Update on Zion: pic.twitter.com/7Jn2jEdUVS
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 21, 2019
On that timetable, Williamson won’t play until mid-November at the earliest and near Christmas at the latest. No matter what, it’s cause for concern this early in his NBA career, and will definitely frustrate the Pelicans in their bid to become a Western Conference playoff team.
This isn’t going to do much to disprove reporting that there are concerns about Williamson’s weight, either. We’ll see how he looks when he comes back.
Zion Williamson is expected to be held out for several weeks at the start of the NBA regular season because of his latest knee injury, and there are rumblings that the former Duke star needs to get his weight under control in order to help prevent similar ailments going forward.
Shortly after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Williamson’s injury is not “severe” but will force him to sit out for several weeks, Stephen A. Smith said on “First Take” that a source told him Zion has a strained meniscus. Perhaps more troubling, Smith said the same source said Nike is concerned about Williamson’s weight.
“Somebody told me that what they’re not telling us is that he’s got a strained meniscus, and Nike is concerned about his weight,” Smith said, as transcribed by Mike Chiari of Bleacher Report. “And they want him to use this opportunity to get some weight off him so he doesn’t put as much strain on that knee.”
The Pelicans are said to be relieved about Williamson’s knee soreness after he underwent further testing, but knee troubles have become somewhat of a recurring theme for the 19-year-old. Williamson is listed at 285 pounds, which is heavy for a player who is about 6-foot-6. Most of that has to do with his incredible strength, but it would not be a surprise if the Pelicans and Nike — his biggest sponsor — want him to shed a few pounds.
One former NBA big man already offered some advice to Williamson for keeping extra weight off. Williamson has now dealt with two knee injuries during the preseason, and he had more of a fluke injury when his sneaker blew apart during a game at Duke. The issue is certainly one worth monitoring.
New Orleans Pelicans fans are going to have to wait a while to see first overall pick Zion Williamson make his regular-season NBA debut.
Williamson underwent further testing this week to determine the cause of soreness in his right knee that, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski the injury is expected to keep him out for several games at the start of the regular season. Fortunately, it is not considered to be anything “severe.”
A severe injury has been ruled out for Zion Williamson’s right knee, but he is expected to miss period of weeks to start regular season, league sources tell ESPN. Pels are clearly treating injury with an abundance of caution but there’s no shortage of confidence on full recovery.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 18, 2019
The Pelicans obviously have a ton invested in Williamson, so there is no way they want him to be anything less than 100 percent healthy before he takes the floor. He missed the majority of the Las Vegas Summer League after sustaining a bruise in his left knee, and we all remember the knee sprain he suffered at Duke after his Nike sneaker infamously exploded. While it does not sound like the latest injury is something to be alarmed about, the history is at least somewhat concerning.
Williamson has already given NBA fans a glimpse of his ability, as he averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in the four preseason games in which he appeared. His debut will be the one of the most highly anticipated storylines of the upcoming season.
Zion Williamson splashed a triple during Friday’s preseason win over the Utah Jazz, and it may become a somewhat common occurrence from here.
The New Orleans Pelicans star connected on his first three of the preseason in the first quarter on a straight shot from the top of the arc.
“ZioN oNly ShooTs iN thE paINt” pic.twitter.com/LlM7rhgrQu
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) October 12, 2019
After the game, Williamson said he would be comfortable taking that shot if defenses continued to give it to him.
“I mean, I was open so I shot it,” said the No. 1 overall pick,” per Amie Just of the New Orleans Advocate. “I think people kind of exaggerate the whole ‘can’t shoot’ thing. I’m very capable of shooting it, so if they want to leave me open, I’m gonna shoot it every time.”
With his power, touch, and athleticism, the 19-year-old is already an efficiency monster in the restricted area, so adding the threat of a three-point shot will create a major problem for NBA defenses. Williamson did shoot a fairly solid 33.8 percent from three in his one season at Duke, and he has already raved about NBA spacing and how it will open up new dimensions of his game.
Zion Williamson has been told he could probably have a successful career in the NFL because of his size and strength, and those qualities were on display once again on Friday. Only this time, they didn’t do the No. 1 overall pick any good.
Williamson and some other New Orleans Pelicans players hit the golf course for an event with season ticket holders and corporate sponsors, and Zion had a bit of an equipment problem while teeing off.
“He literally broke the club!”
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) September 13, 2019
That’s right — the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Williamson is literally so strong that the head went flying off his iron. Not surprisingly, Charles Barkley knows exactly how that feels.
Williamson’s swing didn’t look quite as bad as Barkley’s, but the former Duke star may need to get fitted for some custom clubs if he wants to really get into golf.
Attorney Michael Avenatti is once again accusing Nike executives of improper conduct, including approving illegal payments to Zion Williamson and other players.
Avenatti was arrested on March 25 and charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to extort Nike. Avenatti allegedly was threatening to hold a press conference in which he would unveil improper activities between Nike and high school/college programs unless they paid him $25 million.
Avenatti hired legal representation for the extortion case and is seeking to have the charges dismissed on grounds of vindictive and selective prosecution. His attorneys filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday that included numerous allegations, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
According to the motion, Avenatti has evidence Nike executives approved cash payments to be made to handlers and family members of amateur players. The payments are often made in an effort to steer an amateur player to a college program sponsored by the shoe company. Adidas was at the center of a college basketball scandal over the past two years for this issue. Avenatti says Nike has engaged in similar practices.
Avenatti claims to have evidence showing a Nike employee was willing to make a $35,000 payment to Zion Williamson, $20,000 for Romeo Langford, and $15,000 for another player. Williamson played his freshman season at Duke, which is a Nike-sponsored school, while Langford went to Indiana, an Adidas school.
Avenatti claims to have gained the evidence and information through former amateur coach Gary Franklin. Franklin coached the California Supreme, a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) team. Franklin alleges Nike tried to funnel payments through him intended for the handlers and/or family of several players on his teams, such as Deandre Ayton. Franklin retained Avenatti’s services after claiming to have been forced out by Nike once he no longer felt comfortable going along with their scheme.
In April, Avenatti also accused Nike of making payments to the mother of Williamson, who ended up going No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.
It’s fair to say that despite the presence of Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans have not been a national TV staple in recent NBA seasons. That will change with a vengeance in 2019-20.
The NBA’s schedule release Monday revealed that the Pelicans will have 20 nationally televised games between ESPN, TNT, and ABC. Their two ABC games will be their first on that network since 2009, while three of their first five games will be shown to a national audience.
The Pelicans have a record 20 (Twenty!) games on TNT, ESPN & ABC.
ABC games: vs Clippers on Jan. 18 & at Rockets on Feb. 2. The franchise’s first network appearances since 2009.
Three of the Pelicans first five games will be nationally broadcast on TNT or ESPN.#ZionEffect
— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) August 12, 2019
This is unprecedented for the Pelicans, and numbers like that would be more associated with big-name NBA franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers or Golden State Warriors. It’s pretty much all down to Williamson, but it’s worth remembering the young players the franchise has acquired to complement him who are excited to get a taste of playing with him.