Zion Williamson will play for the New Orleans Pelicans Thursday night after clearing quarantine from his excused absence from the Disney bubble, as first reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, and later confirmed by the Pelicans. Williamson will not be on a minute restriction but will play in short bursts, according to Haynes. Williamson was considered a game-time decision due to conditioning concerns after spending four days in quarantine.
The rookie star left Orlando to deal with a family situation but was tested for the coronavirus daily while he was away. He never tested positive. Therefore, he only needed to quarantine for four days before becoming eligible to return to the floor. The Pelicans spent most of the season in the Western Conference cellar.
However, once Williamson returned from the knee injury that kept him out for most of his rookie year, they surged back into contention for a playoff spot. Their starting lineup with Williamson in the fold has destroyed opponents by 26.3 points per 100 possessions, and that has been one of the catalysts behind New Orleans' improvement before the season was suspended.
They are now one of several teams battling the Memphis Grizzlies and their own star rookie, Ja Morant, for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. New Orleans is currently 3.5 games behind Memphis, but if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed after the eight seeding games at Disney, that would trigger a play-in situation where that No. 9 seed would make the playoffs if it beats No. 8 twice in a row.
New Orleans had the NBA's easiest remaining schedule before the season paused, and while the bubble couldn't quite recreate the road that would have been in front of them, they do have the easiest schedule of the teams in Orlando. The odds aren't in their favor considering where they're starting, but with Zion back in the fold and suiting up tonight, the Pelicans have a real chance to reach the postseason.