Zion Williamson will not return to the Pelicans in time to play

Andrew LopezESPN3 minutes to read

Metairie, LA — New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Zion Williamson will not practice with the team on Saturday and won’t play in any championship games next week if the Pelicans are still in play-in.

Griffin, speaking to local media on Friday, said the team would like Williamson to go through some practice before he returns from a hamstring injury he sustained on January 2.

“I would say if you look at like, the logistics of where we are, it’s not possible to get the work that’s going to put in a five-by-five drill in time for any game,” Griffin said. “I think based on today, the best possible result for us would be if everything is in order, maybe you are in a position to practice before the first round. [series] Or maybe during the first round [series].

“But it’s going to take more than one, right? It’s really hard. And then again, we might never get to that point either. If it’s not a situation where all those things align and he feels the way he should feel, we’re not going to let him to go to the next stage.”

Griffin said the Pelicans are scheduled to practice Saturday in Minneapolis before Sunday’s regular season finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Williamson will not be making the live broadcast.

New Orleans has secured itself at least the ninth seed in Western Play, but it could crash out of the tournament altogether depending on the results of this weekend’s games.

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A day after Griffin released a statement saying Williamson would continue his “rehabilitation and conditioning regimen,” he expanded on those comments saying that certain things needed to be reconciled before the team cleared Williamson to return from a right hamstring strain. It kept him out of action for more than three months.

“I think it’s just about all the objective measures we can get about where he’s at and how he feels he’s lining up. And up until this point, they haven’t,” Griffin said. “So if they had it, we would definitely say, ‘Well, he’s cleared five-for-five,’ and they don’t.

“It’s complicated and yet it really isn’t. When these things converge, you can progress to the next step. And they haven’t converged until he does.”

When asked to elaborate on the metrics, Griffin said they are things a team can measure in the weight room in terms of strength and flexibility as well as speed on the court.

“And then his reaction and the way he feels after each workout,” Griffin said. “When he feels like it, he’ll tell us, ‘Yeah, I’m ready for the next stage.’ And to this stage, he just didn’t feel like it.”

Williamson advanced to a three-on-three action, but Griffin said it didn’t make sense the next day or even that the next lead made any sense.

“He was never quoted or reinjured. He was never reported in pain. It’s like hesitation you can see,” Griffin said. “I think we’ve had this before with Brandon Ingram, when he said, ‘When I feel like me, I’m going to play. You can see when someone trusts her and trusts him and he’s not in that place now.'”

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Williamson has made only 29 appearances this season. He originally injured his hamstring during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 2. Williamson suffered a setback in early February when he attempted a comeback and brought back a hamstring injury at that point.

Currently, at 41-39, the Pelicans could finish no worse than the No. 9 seed and will have a chance to make the playoffs through the tournament like they did last season. New Orleans currently plays seventh with the Los Angeles Lakers, trailing the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, both 42-38.

New Orleans hosts the New York Knicks on Friday night in the final regular season game at home at the Smoothie King Center. The Knicks will be without Jalen Bronson (right hand injury maintenance) and Mitchell Robinson (rest). RJ Barrett is questionable with disease.

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