Zion Williamson Out 6-8 Weeks After Meniscus Surgery
Zion Williamson will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery Monday on his right meniscus, the New Orleans Pelicans announced Monday.
The team had initially said Williamson would miss some time with right knee soreness.
Through four preseason games, he averaged better than 23 points, six rebounds and two assists per game in just 27 minutes a night, while shooting an absurd 71 percent from the field. He has been installed as the favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year honors, but now several other rookies, including Ja Morant of Memphis and R.J. Barrett of the Knicks, could shine in Williamson's absence.
The news is a blow not only to Williamson but to the Pelicans, who are slated to open the regular season Tuesday on TNT against the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors and are considered a borderline playoff team in the rugged Western Conference. Zion and the Pelicans are scheduled to make 30 appearances this season on national television.
"He's not dead, guys,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after shootaround Friday at the Garden, according to the New York Post. "He's a typical 19-year-old kid, he's upbeat, he has fun and he's living his dream.
"He's a solid, solid guy. He's very mature for a 19-year-old, so we'll just see what goes on there. If anybody is going to be able to stay attached and he's a great team guy, so he's going to be with our team regardless of what the situation is.''
Gentry told reporters he believes Williamson injured the knee in Sunday's preseason game in San Antonio.
At Duke, Williamson missed the final month of the regular season with a sprained right knee after blowing out his left shoe in a regular season game against North Carolina on Feb. 20.
He returned to help Duke beat Syracuse in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, and then averaged 26 points as Duke advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.He then skipped most of summer league with a bruised left knee.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told me in July he feels Williamson should have never played summer league because his body was rusty from being on the awards circuit in April.
There have long been concerns about Williamson's weight - he's listed at 285 pounds - combined with the tremendous force he puts on his lower body when he comes to a jump stop.
"That violent action, I'm not sure the human body can deal with that on a consistent basis," one veteran NBA scout said Friday. "Eventually it catches up to you."
Before he began his career at Duke, one NBA scouting director told me there were concerns about Williamson's weight heading into the NBA.
"I think Coach K's right: I think he is graceful [at 285 pounds]," he said. "My concern is over the course of 82 games, that's a lot of weight to lug around at that size. If you play 82 games trying to carry that much baggage, it could be a concern going forward. Unless he drops some weight and can learn to keep it off, like [Caleb] Swanigan was. He's not as big as Swanigan was, but I'm using that as an example. That guy lost that weight and learned to keep it off and that body works for him.
"If that body works for Zion, fine. But he can't be like the normal player who is going to gain weight as he gets older. That's where the concern is. Most guys if they're 280 now, when they're 26 what's he going to be? Most guys if they're 215 now, they're going to be 240 when they're 26.
"Is it a concern going foward? It has to be, and yet he carries it well now so it's not like he can't dominate."
Speaking Friday on Sirius NBA radio, former women's star Cheryl Miller suggested Williamson needed to lose about 15 pounds to help himself withstand the punishment of an NBA season.
"I would have him drop like 15, 17 [pounds]," Miller said. "Dietary issues, making sure that his strength and conditioning coach is right there by his side.
"If he wants longevity in this league in being the type of player that we've seen, he has to do the right things by his body, period, period," Miller added.