Based on how the season began, few people could have guessed how it would end. The Pelicans began the season without arguably their best player, Zion Williamson, and with a rookie head coach, and went 3-16 to start the season.
Thoughts may creep in on what this team would like if Zion Williamson were there towards the end of the year. Inserting a star into the lineup who averaged 27 points and 7 rebounds on 61% shooting from the field in 2021 would do nothing but elevate this team.
Despite this, the season concluded with a 6 game first-round playoff series loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Pelicans finished the season on a high note, inspiring a city and fan base to believe in this club.
Fans unfortunately never got to see a dribble from Zion this year. Here is how the timeline on him looked this season.
Williamson missed the first part of the season and was not practicing as he was experiencing right foot soreness. On December 16, reports had Zion receiving an injection to promote healing in the foot. He would be re-evaluated in 4-6 weeks.
During the Pelicans’ media day, the team revealed that Williamson underwent surgery to repair a fractured right foot that he hurt doing offseason drills. The thought initially was they were hoping to get Zion back before the start of the regular season.
Zion starts his rehabilitation away from the team in January. Williamson traveled to Oregon and spent several weeks training there before returning to the team in early March.
Speculations ran rampant about when Zion would return to the court. In a radio interview, Lee Anderson, his stepfather, said that he expected Williamson to play at some point in the season. Zion began posting videos of him dunking on social media, showing his progress. Nevertheless, he never stepped foot on the court for the Pelicans in the 2021-22 season.
Would the Pelicans have pulled the trigger on a CJ McCollum deal if Zion had started the season with the team? Would players like Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, and Jose’ Alvarado have been able to flourish as they did with Zion on the court taking some of those minutes? We will never know the answers to those questions, but fans wanted to see what this team would look like whole in the postseason. Those answers will have to wait until next season, but it was a disappointment not seeing that now to some. He has said all the right things to Zion’s credit and even confirmed he could not wait to sign an extension with the Pelicans if offered one this offseason.
Health and attrition are tricky in the NBA. Sometimes all the promise in the world doesn’t lead to the satisfaction of the reward. Here’s hoping this year’s disappointment can lead to next year’s joy.
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