Zion Williamson was initially given a window of six-to-eight weeks to return from a torn right lateral meniscus. It has now been eight weeks since Williamson's surgery, though, and the rookie does not appear close to making his NBA debut. Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin revealed on Wednesday that Williamson is "fully weight-bearing" on that right knee, but that he is still "a ways away" from actually playing in a game, per Scott Kushner of the Times-Picayune.
At this point, the Pelicans have little reason to rush Williamson back. Owners of a 6-22 record, the Pelicans have lost 13 games in a row and have fallen so far out of the playoff race that. New Orleans no longer has much to play for this season.
But their future is still bright, and while Williamson's absence is hardly ideal, it at least creates developmental minutes for other players. Brandon Ingram has blossomed into an All-Star-caliber player this season without Williamson around, and while the two figure to fit well together considering Ingram's growth as a shooter, he has benefited from the extra room he has had as New Orleans' undisputed alpha dog. The Pelicans have an abundance of young talent, and getting everyone enough minutes was always going to be difficult. That has been the silver lining to this injury.
Of course, the undercurrent here is the seeming vulnerability of Williamson's unique body type. He is one of the NBA's heaviest players despite his 6-6 height, and he is so athletically explosive that injury concerns have followed him since his amateur days. With that in mind, the Pelicans are justified in taking every possible precaution. Their goal is to compete for championships down the line. Risking Williamson for a few extra wins in a lost season hardly makes sense in that light.
It is going to frustrate Pelicans fans, but incremental progress reports like this will probably be the norm for the next few weeks. Williamson's return is the most important story surrounding the team right now, but given the caution New Orleans is likely to exercise, it isn't even clear when he will begin on-court work, let alone play in an NBA game.