It was recently reported that the Pelicans forward will continue his rehab away from the team as he attempts to heal a fractured foot that has kept him sidelined all season long.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski states that Williamson is doing his rehab in Portland, Oregon and that the team agreed on letting him work away from home and even arranged transportation for him.
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 5, 2022
This is bad, bad news for Williamson and the Pelicans and all but assures that this season will be a loss for the Pels.
It also once again throws the future of the franchise into doubt.
The Story So Far
This injury has been bizarre, to put it gently.
It all started when the team announced during the summer that Williamson had suffered an injury that required surgery.
At the time, most expected he would suit up sometime during the first half of the season.
Report: Zion's timeline on return from foot injury remains unclear
“What Zion did last year was wholly unprecedented…he is pounding on the door of a Top 15 player in this league, injury is the only thing that is going to stop it. It's concerning.” — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/g2IhQIwL9b
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) October 14, 2021
Those hopes were then dashed in December when imaging revealed that Williamson’s rehab had encountered a setback.
He would stop practicing with the team and instead focus on healing.
Now comes the news that Williamson’s rehabilitation is so intense – and behind schedule – that he will take it on away from the Big Easy.
There’s no debate about it: this means that Williamson is not coming back soon.
And the Pelicans desperately need Williamson: the team is currently 14th in the West with a record of 13-25.
As a reminder, Williamson has a career average of 25.7 points, seven rebounds, and 3.2 assists a game and is the powerhouse heart-and-soul of the team.
It’s now all but impossible for the Pelicans to turn this season around.
Even if Williamson returned next week somehow, the team has dug itself such a hole that all of 2021-22 is a bust.
But Williamson is not coming back next week…or any time soon.
In fact, some are starting to question is Williamson perhaps suffered a career-ending injury and if he may have already played his last professional NBA game.
Others are wondering if the Pelicans should start to turn away from Williamson and focus on a future without him.
There were rumors of his unhappiness with New Orleans before he hurt himself so the thought of him leaving isn’t anything new.
But this debilitating injury is keeping him away from the team and it’s also keeping the team stuck in place.
A few years ago, the thought of getting rid of him would have seemed outlandish but the Pelicans might be able to build a future without Williamson.
In fact, they might have to build a future without him.
Right now doctors and analysts are saying Williamson will return to the NBA at some point.
When he does, he will likely be All-Star caliber again.
If that’s the case, he will be a huge trading chip for the Pelicans.
Maybe it’s time the team starts to consider the impossible: moving on without Williamson.