Zion Williamson reportedly ‘not even close’ to Pelicans return: ‘His conditioning is just not there’

Zion Williamson isn’t close to a return, even if the New Orleans Pelicans advance beyond this week’s play-in tournament.

That’s according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who provided an update on the Pelicans forward while speaking with the “Pat McAfee Show” Monday.

“His conditioning is just not there,” Charania said. “From what I’m told, the Pelicans believe he’s not even close to getting back on the floor.”

Williamson injured his right hamstring against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 2. The Pelicans announced the next day that the injury would be re-evaluated in three weeks. More than three months later, Williamson has yet to return to the court.

The Pelicans earned a spot in the Western Conference play-in despite his absence. As the No. 9 seed in the West, they’ll play the Oklahoma City Thunder in an elimination game on Wednesday. The winner advances to face the loser of Tuesday’s Lakers-Timberwolves game. The winner of that game will earn the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and face the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson watches in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in New Orleans, Sunday, March 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Zion Williamson in street clothes remains a familiar sight. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Pelicans general manager David Griffin announced last week that Williamson wouldn’t play in any play-in games. Now it sounds like Williamson will be out for the first round of the playoffs if New Orleans advances.

“The hamstring might be close to healed, Charania said. “But from a conditioning persepective, he’s not been able to bridge that gap. …

“He looked like he was gonna come back after six or seven weeks. He suffers a re-aggravation, a reinjury. He’s not able to do anything. … From what I’m told, there’s no expectation from the Pelicans that he will be on the floor at any point in the first round of the playoffs.”

The report gibes with what Griffin told reporters last week.

“I would say that if you just look at, like, the logistics of where we’re at, it’s not possible to get the work in that would put him in a 5-on-5 workout in time for any play-in,” Griffin said. “I think, based on today, our best possible outcome would be if everything lined up perfectly, maybe you’re in a position to practice prior to a first-round [series] or maybe during a first-round [series].”

Williamson played 29 regular-season games this season, his third season in four as a pro that he’s failed to play in 30 games. He didn’t play at all the previous season as he recovered from a foot injury sustained during training camp.

The Pelicans have taken a cautious approach to Williamson’s injury recovery since they drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 2019. If they make the playoffs, it will mark the second straight season they’ve played in the postseason without their young star.

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