Zion Williamson dribbles against San Antonio

David Griffin: Pelicans taking longer-term view on Zion Williamson injury

by Jim Eichenhofer

TORONTO – No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson will not get to make his NBA debut Tuesday, but the New Orleans Pelicans have the bigger picture in mind as they approach his recovery from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. As Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin noted this morning, “We’re going to be very cautious, as we would be with anyone. This is a marathon; it’s not a sprint.”

Williamson was given a timetable of 6-8 weeks before he can return to full basketball activities, which will cause him to miss a chunk of the early season, but Griffin indicated that the Duke product will be in position to still make an impact over the long 82-game schedule.

“He had the surgery yesterday, which went very, very well,” Griffin said. “We’re extremely optimistic that he’s going to be really, really good coming out of this. I’m a firm believer that these things are blessings in disguise. You sort of reset the deck now, and he gets to realize what’s in front of him (in terms of recovery and how to proceed going forward).”

There was no single play or moment Williamson could point to that caused the injury, but two days after he excelled in an Oct. 13 preseason win at San Antonio, he went to the team’s training staff to get the issue checked out. An MRI revealed the injury.

The Pelicans have spoken extensively during the offseason and preseason about how depth is a major strength of the roster, which will be put the test while Williamson recuperates and prepares to get back on the floor. Williamson’s absence will result in potential opportunities for other forwards. In the short term, JJ Redick will slide into the starting lineup and Brandon Ingram will move to power forward.

“It’s certainly going to get more minutes for people,” Griffin said, mentioning a reserve such as forward Kenrich Williams. “One of the things we’ve talked about as a staff is that we’re really deep. Which is also a euphemism for, we don’t know who our best players are all the time, right? We’ve got guys who are really capable of playing. This situation will get more minutes (to some players), to get a little bit of a feel for everybody. We have so much versatility, length and athleticism.”

Although many prognosticators quickly changed their expectations for the 2019-20 Pelicans based on the Williamson injury news, Griffin noted that New Orleans still believes it will be able to compete.

“Nobody’s looking at this like we’re not going to win games,” Griffin said. “We have full expectation that we’re supposed to figure it out, and we will.”

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