It looks like the return of the New Orleans Pelicans’ best player and reunion of their opening-day starting lineup will have to wait until sometime after the All-Star break.
Today, it was reported that Zion Williamson will not play in any of the team’s final three games before the All-Star break and that he will be re-evaluated once again after the All-Star break.
Williamson, who has been out with a hamstring strain since January 2nd, has missed the team’s last 19 contests (and 27 overall for the season). Overall, he’s only appeared in 114 of the 282 regular season games his team has played in since he entered the league.
His injury also means that he will be a no-go for the All-Star game in Salt Lake City, which is tough because he was slated to be a starter (his second such nomination). His absence makes him the third All-Star who will likely not participate in the game, with the other two being Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, since Brandon Ingram returned from his recent toe injury, the team has been able to stay afloat without their prodigious forward, emerging victorious in each of their last three outings.
However, if this team is going to live up to its namesake as the dark horse contender in the parity-rich Western Conference, they are going to need Williamson to be available during the stretch run.
Their offense, especially, is in dire need of Williamson’s spark. Before he went down in early January, the team ranked 8th in the league in offensive rating. But over the last 19 games without him on the court, they have ranked an uninspiring 23rd in that category.
There’s a reason Williamson was named as an All-Star Starter. He’s one of the ten best offensive players in the world when he’s healthy.
His blend of superhuman strength and speed completely tilts the floor. When he’s on the floor, defensive players become baseball fielders, drastically shifting to whatever side of the hardwood he inhibits.
Ingram is a fine offensive player, one of the best this league has. But even he’s not capable of the landscape-altering impact that Williamson forces through his sheer presence alone. In fact, very few players can mime his impact, and it’s because of this that we hope he’ll be back in uniform soon.