Zion Williamson suddenly departing from the NBA bubble made a splash two weeks before the restart of the 2019-20 season, as the New Orleans Pelicans rookie had to tend to “an urgent family matter.” Couple that with reports that Williamson struggled with leg cramps during practice, and the Pelicans have a wave of headaches to address before action begins at Walt Disney World.

This unforeseen absence could potentially spell chaos for the NBA, who could be short of its biggest attraction for the second time this season after the league tailored a would-be season-opener headliner for the rookie’s grand entrance.

That, of course, never came to be as Williamson tore his meniscus weeks prior to the season, forcing him out for the first half of the campaign. This time around, the South Carolina native will have to quarantine for at least four days after his return, so long as he’s tested negative for each of his days away from the bubble.

A more dire situation would have Williamson quarantining for as long as 10 days if he didn’t test negative all of his absent days (up to seven straight) or if he failed to get tested during his trip back home.

The league scheduled the Pelicans’ first game against the Utah Jazz for July 30, hoping to get its restart started with an entertaining game with plenty of stakes. If Williamson is out of the bubble for too long or is unable to comply with the health and safety protocol, the Pelicans would have an uphill mountain to climb during the remaining eight regular-season games.

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New Orleans has the easiest strength of schedule among the 22 teams invited to the bubble, but that ease gets turned up a whole other notch of difficulty without Williamson’s 23.6 points per game in the lineup. The Pelicans would lack a sound inside scorer that finishes at a robust 58.9% from the floor (59.9% effective field goal percentage).

Zion Williamson might not have defense down pat in the NBA just yet with a measly average of 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per game in his first 19 professional outings, but he’s already a force on the offensive glass, hauling in a whopping 2.9 offensive rebounds per game while playing only an average of 29.7 minutes.

The Pels could revert to using Brandon Ingram as their leading scorer, but they would lack a punch at both ends if Williamson’s absence is extended.

New Orleans’ most vital game is against the Memphis Grizzlies on Aug. 3 — a game that would finally have the No. 1 pick meet the No. 2 selection on the court. Williamson was absent for the first encounter between these two teams and Morant missed game No. 2 with an injury.

The Pelicans could grab a massive 3-0 series lead by beating the Grizzlies and inch themselves closer to the ninth spot in the West with wins over the Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs during their next games. Though all of this becomes marginally tougher to achieve without their prized star-on-the-rise available to lace them up once action starts in the NBA bubble.