On Monday afternoon, the New Orleans Pelicans announced that Zion Williamson underwent successful surgery for a torn right meniscus …
… Which means that the league’s most highly anticipated debut since LeBron James will be sidelined for the first six to eight weeks of the season. Yikes.
Update on Zion: pic.twitter.com/7Jn2jEdUVS
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 21, 2019
We first got word that Williamson would miss a “period of weeks” last Friday from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but this seems like a much more complicated injury than what was previously let on. Sure, the injury isn’t season-ending, but fixing a torn meniscus is no joke. Also, this already Williamson’s second injury of his short NBA career. Remember, he played only a couple of minutes in Summer League after bumping knees with an opponent and missing the remainder of the games with a left knee injury.
Hopefully, Williamson can get back to his usual level of production quickly, but (missing up to) eight weeks is no small sum. In fact, if he were to miss that much time, Williamson would return with right around 54 games left in the season, which could give his Rookie of the Year odds a huge hit:
The fewest games played by a Rookie of the Year is still Patrick Ewing’s 50 out of 82 for the Knicks in 1985-86
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 21, 2019
In any case, if all goes according to plan, Williamson should be back on the court for the Pelicans’ two matchups against the Bulls, the first of which is on January 8th in New Orleans. Williamson will then come to the United Center for his first regular-season game in Chicago on February 6th.
Which version of Williamson we’ll see is a fair question to ask, though I suspect he’ll be a challenge no matter what. That said, if he returns mid-December, he may have only a few games to get really back in the swing of things before battling the Bulls.
Interestingly enough, whether Williamson returns in six weeks versus eight weeks could make a huge difference for the kind of Pelicans team the Eastern Conference gets in 2019-2020.
There’s a stretch starting the week of December 9th when the Pelicans battle Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, and Brooklyn. I don’t know about you, but I’m assuming the Bulls would like to see him at full health against those East rivals, especially if they’re getting a completely healthy Williamson on January 8th.
As a whole, the Williamson news is a real bummer for the start of the regular season. The Pelicans will still have their moments with a bulk of fun, young players to keep an eye on, but this puts a damper on their franchise-record 30 nationally televised games.