Pelicans' Star Zion Williamson Cleared for Full Basketball Activities, But is it Too Late to Save Season?


NBA insider Shams Charania reports that New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has been cleared for full basketball activities. 

Williamson has yet to play a game for the Pelicans this season, who are 5-16 to start the season after their 98-97 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

After fracturing his foot in the Summer, he was initially expected by the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin, to be prepared to take to the court at the start of the season. 

Further updates on November 1 revealed that such optimism was misfounded, and the timeline for his return was delayed yet again before he finally received permission to participate in 1-on-1 drills on November 16.

One has to wonder if a component of the lingering injury concern is the seemingly undisciplined eating habits of Williamson, and if he's partly to blame for the extended time it has taken for him to be cleared to play.

The Pelicans even went so far as to change their culinary staff and practices to accelerate the recovery of the 21-year-old star power forward, as video evidence surfaced of Zion appearing out of shape.

Despite the respectable performances from small forward Brandon Ingram and center Jonas Valanciunas so far this season, New Orleans fans desperately await the return of their 2020-21 all-star. Williamson averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists as a sophomore last season while sporting the fourth-best Player Efficiency Rating in the league with a sparkling 27.17 PER.

While the Pelicans are only five games back of the 10th-placed Minnesota Timberwolves, it's hard to imagine them turning their season around in time to compete for a playoff spot, let alone an NBA championship. Even with the return of Zion, he likely wouldn't hit the ground running with the same elite level of play and would need a number of in-game reps to make the sort of impact he did last season. 

With the first quarter of the season nearly completed, it would be a shame if a team's aspirations were sabotaged by a lack of discipline from its budding superstar. Only time will tell if such a fate befalls a franchise that has never even reached a conference final since their introduction to the NBA in 1988. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports