Zion Williamson is close, very close to making his NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans. Vice president David Griffin has tracked his recovery every step of the way, and he insists — his No. 1 overall pick will be better, much better than what he showed in the preseason.
The prized rookie forward tore his meniscus in the preseason and was out indefinitely with a rough timeline of six-to-eight weeks, one that has now extended well past that initial expectation. Griffin recently said he could play on Nov. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs, but later cooled down the expectations.
Regardless of when he makes his NBA debut, Griffin knows it will be a better version of what he previously showed.
“He’s going to be better than he was before,” Griffin told Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports. “He may not be initially. But once he finds his timing, he’s really going to benefit from this time with everything that has been done. It’s making him a better version of himself.”
Williamson has been working on his lateral movement while adapting the way he runs and walks, as the medical staff hopes that will ease some of the torque his massive body puts on his knees. Griffin was upbeat about the prospect.
“He’s way more flexible now. He’s moving around more,” Griffin said of Williamson. “But if you can’t control it, you can’t cut him loose. Helping him get to the point where he can control it and not gain muscle mass has been challenging.”
Some around the league don't feel they will see the best version of Williamson until after the All-Star break.
“He’ll have three or four good games and then two or three bad games,” a scout said. “He has to adjust to New Orleans’ pace. They run one of the fastest paces in the league. It’ll take time for him to condition himself into that.”
The Pelicans are hoping to use the rest of this season as a practice run for their prized pick, allowing Williamson to experience the pace of the NBA game and getting the medical and training staff to tweak his running, jumping, and lateral mechanics accordingly.