New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has passed through his full return to play protocol and has been cleared for full basketball activities, the team announced Thursday. Williamson did not play at all during the 2021-22 season due to a broken foot, and his injury saga took many strange twists and turns.
During media day, the team made a surprise announcement that Williamson had broken his foot and undergone surgery over the summer, but was expected to be ready for the start of the season. It soon became clear that wasn't going to happen, and Williamson's timeline continued to get pushed back.
He was briefly cleared for full participation in practice in late November, but experienced a setback. Due to persistent soreness, he shut things down again and got an injection to help facilitate healing.
When he began rehabbing again in January, he left the team and relocated to Portland, Oregon. During that time, the Pelicans traded for CJ McCollum, and Williamson never reached out to his new teammate, who publicly called him out about it on TV. In early March, Williamson returned to New Orleans, and posted a video of him throwing down a between-the-legs dunk despite not being cleared for such activities. Later that month he was cleared for one-on-one work, and has been progressing well since then. Now, finally he has been given the all clear.
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Without Williamson, the Pelicans got off to a brutal 2-13 start, but were able to regroup in the second half of the season. The McCollum trade helped them make a late push for the play-in tournament, and they ended up beating the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers to earn the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. There, they put up a spirited fight against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, taking them to six games before bowing out.
The future appears bright in New Orleans, especially if Williamson is able to stay healthy. He's eager to rejoin the team next season and push for more playoff success.
"Being around the guys, being in Smoothie King, seeing that playoff environment," Williamson said, "and the locker room -- we have a special locker room. My first two years, it was a good locker room, but this year it was more together. Being real, it sucks watching from the sideline. I just want to be out there. But just seeing the potential, we've got a lot of great pieces. I'm excited to get on the court with those guys."