The New Orleans Pelicans had relatively high hopes coming into the 2021-22 NBA season. With a new head coach in Willie Green, they were hoping to make a push for the postseason, with challenging for a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament in the Western Conference being the minimum they wanted to achieve.
Nearly halfway through the season, and even a play-in spot looks like it could be difficult to attain. New Orleans is 14-26 on the season, currently in 13th place in the Western Conference. They are only 1.5 games behind the 10th place San Antonio Spurs, but no one would confidently bet on the Pelicans making a run to land one of the four play-in spots.
A big reason for the team’s lack of success this season is the absence of Zion Williamson. There were some people hopeful that Williamson would be able to get in the lineup for opening night after an offseason procedure on his foot. That did not occur, as Williamson has missed all 40 games and counting without a concrete timetable to return in sight.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was ramping up his rehab right around Thanksgiving and was on track to return. However, he began feeling some soreness in the foot, so they slowed things down.
Once that soreness didn’t subside, they decided to give him an injection. That pushed his timetable back multiple weeks, yet here we are heading into the second full week of January and there is still no plan for him to return.
Recently, Williamson spoke out about the injury. It was the first time since media day that he has spoken and revealed how difficult it has been on him.
As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult process for me,” said Williamson. “I know there’s work to be done in my recovery before I can safely return to the court, but I will continue to put in the time necessary so I can get back on the floor with my team and represent Pelicans fans and the city of New Orleans at the highest level. Basketball means everything to me, and I am thankful for the Pelicans organization and everyone who has surrounded me with love and support throughout this journey – my family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and everybody who has stood behind me and uplifted me when I needed it most.
Williamson is doing his rehab away from the team, but still under the team’s supervision. It is anyone’s guess as to when he will return to the court, as his rehab from the foot injury is not progressing as well as he or the team had hoped it would.
The New Orleans Pelicans are still hopeful that Zion Williamson can make a return to the court and help push them toward a playoff spot. But, without a concrete answer on when that may be, expect New Orleans to be sellers at the deadline as the team is going nowhere fast without their superstar power forward.