Zion Williamson injury: Pelicans star expected to miss first few weeks of season, report says

The NBA scheduled the New Orleans Pelicans on opening night with the idea that Zion Williamson would make his debut against the NBA champions. That plan came off of the rails on Friday. 

Williamson was ruled out of his team's final preseason game on Thursday, but no indication was given about the severity of his right knee injury. On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported both good and bad news. The good? Williamson's knee injury is not believed to be severe. The bad? Williamson is now expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season. 

The exact nature of the injury remains unknown, but the loss of Williamson is a critical one for New Orleans. He had been sensational in the preseason and may have already established himself as their best player. Further, fans both in and out of New Orleans couldn't wait to see him play. The Pelicans sold far more season-ticket packages with him than they ever did with Anthony Davis, and his presence would have been huge for TV ratings. Now, the world will have to wait for his official debut. 

Williamson's skill set was never in question as he became the unanimous top prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft. If he had a weakness, it was his durability. Williamson has not suffered any severe injuries, but his unique body type indicated that he would have to endure more wear and tear than most players. At his playing weight of 285 pounds last season, he would have been the second-heaviest player in the NBA despite standing only 6-foot-7. 

Given his explosive leaping ability, carrying that much weight seemed likely to impact his knees eventually. This injury will certainly give critics a chance to call for Williamson to lose weight, though his strength and size are part of what makes him so special. At this point in his career, it's too early to say whether or not his body type is sustainable with his playing style. If he returns after this injury and plays a full and healthy season, concerns will quell. But if this flares up, those questions will reemerge. 

With Williamson leading the way, the Pelicans were expected to push for a playoff spot in the incredibly deep Western Conference. His absence will certainly cost them a few games, and potentially a spot in the top eight. New Orleans will need him back as soon as possible if they hope to make the field, but his long-term health is the priority. Don't be surprised if his timeline extends beyond a few weeks. New Orleans wants to win championships. Sacrificing a few wins this season in pursuit of that goal is a more than acceptable compromise. Williamson should not return until he is 100 percent healthy.

Sam Quinn joined CBS sports as a basketball writer in 2019. Prior to that, he wrote for 247Sports and Bleacher Report. He is a New York native and NYU graduate who also has roots in Florida and California. Full Bio

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