Zion Williamson continues 'difficult process' of injury rehab away from Pelicans

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Zion Williamson has been publicly silent since the New Orleans Pelicans revealed at their media day on Sept. 27 that he would miss the start of the season with a foot injury.

On Wednesday, the Pelicans shared Williamson's first public comments since his injury was made public while announcing that he continues to rehab "away from the team" and "under the supervision of the Pelicans medical staff."

“As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult process for me,” Williamson said, per the Pelicans. “I know there’s work to be done in my recovery before I can safely return to the court, but I will continue to put in the time necessary so I can get back on the floor with my team and represent Pelicans fans and the city of New Orleans at the highest level.

"Basketball means everything to me, and I am thankful for the Pelicans organization and everyone who has surrounded me with love and support throughout this journey — my family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and everybody who has stood behind me and uplifted me when I needed it most."

General manager David Griffin told reporters on media day that Williamson's "timeline should get him back on the court in time for the regular season." As the NBA season approaches its third full month of play, Williamson has yet to take the court while experiencing multiple setbacks with his surgically repaired foot. Meanwhile, speculation swirls about the status of his weight and conditioning and what impact it might play on his lingering foot injury.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 13: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans speaks with David Griffin executive vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on November 13, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson speaks with Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin at Smoothie King Center on Nov. 13, 2021, in New Orleans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Griffin said via Wednesday's team statement that Williamson has been and continues to be limited to "partial weight-bearing activities" since his latest imaging on Dec. 16. He also said that Williamson is away from the team "so he can focus on the task at hand.”

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Williamson is rehabbing in Portland, Oregon. The Pelicans didn't speculate on a timeline for Williamson's return.

The continued setbacks alongside the long-shot playoff hopes for a 13-25, 14th-place team cast reasonable doubt on whether Williamson will play at all this season. There's little basketball reason to rush him back, and the Pelicans will presumably prioritize the longterm health of their franchise player over likely meaningless basketball games unless he's 100% ready to return.

As Williamson rehabs, an offseason decision on a rookie contract extension looms. Signing a lucrative rookie contract extension is generally a given for a player of Williamson's caliber. But Williamson was reportedly frustrated with the Pelicans before his injury, and the Pelicans likewise have to be concerned about the longterm health of a player with a foot injury and a history of reported weight concerns.

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