Zion Williamson preaching patience as he recovers from injury

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson doesn’t want anyone in New Orleans panicking about the team’s slow start or his timetable for recovery.

Williamson spoke with reporters Thursday after practice to provide an update on his status. He has been out since Oct. 21, when the Pelicans announced the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 Draft would be sidelined nearly two months after having his torn right lateral meniscus repaired.

As he works to find his way back to the court, Williamson is adopting a long-term view and patient approach to his career and return to the court.

“[The rehab] is going very well. Day by day, its getting better and I think it’s going very well,” Williamson said. “I do feel like it’s getting stronger day by day. The trainers and stuff are telling me day by day it’s getting stronger and I can feel the difference each day.”

Williamson said he often watches the team’s practices and then does his rehab work. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound former Duke star averaged 23.2 points in four preseason games but missed the Pelicans’ preseason finale because of his injury.

I’m just kind of taking it day by day. I think when I’m ready — there’s no real timetable — when I’m ready, I’ll come back.”

Zion Williamson

He said he “felt some soreness” after a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs and had it checked out after that. Being away from the team and missing out on his NBA debut has been a bit of a letdown for Williamson.

“It hurt at first,” Williamson said. “But I’m not out forever so my mindset is just come back stronger, come back better so I can help my team.

“It’s just kind of ‘Alright, let’s go in, let’s get it done and start the recovery process.’ I’m just kind of taking it day by day,” Williamson said. “I think when I’m ready — there’s no real timetable — when I’m ready, I’ll come back.”

Shortly after Williamson had his surgery, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called it “asinine” that Williamson’s injury was attributed to poor conditioning. Williamson said the team has had his back in terms of taking his time in recovering, too.

“It’s not even a conversation I have to have with them about it,” Williamson said. “It’s kind of … it’s a long season. This isn’t like college or something where it’s 30 games. It’s 82 games, so I don’t really see a need to rush back.

“When they feel like I’m back to myself, they’ll let me play. Simple as that. … I’m just rehabbing man.”

As for the Pelicans at large, Williamson’s absence has contributed to their slow start this season. At 1-6, they are the worst team in the Western Conference in a season in which they were expected by some to possibly be in the playoff chase.

“I don’t think people should panic at all. We’re only six games in … it’s a matter of, it’s a long season,” Williamson said. “If you ask me that question again halfway through the season, I’ll be able to give you a more detailed answer. For now, we’re six games in out of 82. There’s no need to panic.”

The 19-year-old Williamson turned pro after one season in college, during which he averaged 22.6 points and was voted to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Defensive Team. He also averaged 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocked shots.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.