What Exactly Is Happening With Ex-Duke Star Zion Williamson in the NBA?

Now in his third official season in the NBA, the All-Star forward has yet to take the floor for the New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson on the court before a November game against the Memphis Grizzlies
Zion Williamson on the court before a November game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Sean Gardner/Getty

Selected No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke by the New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson’s debut in the NBA in the 2019–20 season was delayed until January 22, 2020, because of a torn meniscus.

Due to injury as well as the COVID-19 stoppage, the star forward played in just 24 games as a rookie before going on to play 61 of a possible 72 games last season, averaging 27.0 points on 61.1% shooting while being named an NBA All-Star for the first time.

Now in his third season in The Association, Williamson is once again on the sidelines after suffering a broken foot last summer while performing basketball drills with his stepfather that has prevented him from taking the floor yet this season.

Originally cleared to participate in five-on-five practices at full speed in late November, New Orleans opted to rest Williamson instead because he began to experience renewed foot soreness. “It’s more important to be patient,” New Orleans Coach Willie Green said then. “We’re talking about somebody’s career. Any time you’re dealing with that aspect of professional sports, that is important. That’s how we’re looking at this.”

Then this week, the team announced Williamson received a biologic injection where the fracture is in his right foot to stimulate bone healing and will be re-evaluated in four to six weeks. With no return date for this season in sight and the Pelicans near the bottom of the standings, the 21-year-old has now missed more games than he has played in over the course of his NBA career.

What will happen over the rest of that career seems much more uncertain than it did when Williamson was drafted.

Unquestionably talented, Williamson has now dealt with knee and foot injuries as well as hamstring issues and a broken finger. Not the slimmest of guys, Williamson is also battling weight issues and a lack of time on the court and at practice will only hurt him in that fight. Limited to low-impact, partial weight-bearing activities for the time being, Williamson will be eligible for a contract extension this summer and the Pelicans must decide whether they want to give him one.

“I love it here. I love the city of New Orleans. I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Williamson has previously said about playing with the Pelicans.

The problem is, he isn’t playing and that is trending towards being the norm — not the exception. Already an NBA star, Williamson has yet to prove he is an NBA player.

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