David Griffin: Zion Williamson making progress, on schedule for return
During a Friday appearance on the team’s flagship radio station, David Griffin was asked a question he’s probably getting multiple times each day: How is Zion Williamson and when can everyone expect the No. 1 overall draft pick to make his official NBA debut?
New Orleans’ VP of Basketball Operations noted that he’s encouraged by the progress that Williamson has been making, saying the 19-year-old is on schedule in his process to get back in uniform. He appeared in four preseason games, prior to being sidelined by knee surgery in mid-October. He was given a timetable of 6-8 weeks before he can return, but that ultimately could shift slightly.
“Where we are with Zion is he’s on schedule. He’s progressing exactly as we hoped he would,” Griffin said on ESPN New Orleans 100.3 FM. “(In terms of a timetable), I think we’re on target for eight weeks. Probably not to the day, but in or around that.”
Griffin added that it may not be realistic to try to pinpoint an exact target date, saying it could move up or back somewhat, depending on how Williamson’s body reacts.
“If it’s nine weeks, that’s fine,” Griffin pointed out. “If it’s 10 weeks, that’s fine… if it’s seven weeks, that’s fine. But he’s in a really good space with his rehab. He’s back in New Orleans with our staff, using all of the things we have available to us in our facility. He’s getting better literally every day, so we’re really optimistic. And more importantly, Zion is really excited and that’s where we need him to be.”
The rehabilitation could reach another stage following New Orleans’ current road trip, which takes the Pelicans out West and will conclude Monday with a flight back home from Los Angeles.
“Once the team gets back to town, the coaches are going to put him through the mental part,” Griffin said, when asked specifically about incorporating Williamson into the system and making sure he’s not behind teammates in that area. “The physical part is easy for him. He has an incredible basketball IQ, he loves being a teammate and he loves getting better.”
Ultimately the Pelicans will weigh various factors and use tangible data over a period of time to determine when Williamson can be cleared and is ready to play in a game.
“It’s the doctor saying he’s at a certain point,” Griffin said, listing off markers before the OK is given. “It’s having certain hurdles he has to overcome, his fitness and readiness to play. We’re going to err on the side of caution, obviously, but there are going to be a great number of metrics we use to tell us where he is in his return to play. We’re certainly employing all of those metrics, to know that he’s on pace.”
Williamson will practice with the Pelicans before he can play in a game, with he and the Pelicans observing how his body responds to that initial step.