METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will miss “multiple” weeks with his right hamstring injury, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Sunday.
Griffin said Williamson aggravated the injury in his ramp-up to return to play.
“I think we’re looking at multiple weeks past the All-Star break that he’ll be back,” Griffin said. “What that looks like in terms of timeline, I really can’t tell you. Much as we have throughout this, we’ll continue to image him, and post-All-Star that will happen.”
Williamson had progressed to doing 3-on-3 work and aggravated the injury during that period. When asked how Williamson was taking the setback, Griffin was honest.
“It’s fair to say not terribly well because he was really diligent in his rehab and in the process,” he said. “Unfortunately this is an injury that has a really high incidence of recurrence. It’s nothing he did wrong to bring this about. He was very diligent in the process and it just is what it is.”
Pelicans coach Willie Green said it’s important to be in a good mental space as Williamson is dealing with the rehab process once again.
“It’s going to be important for him to continue to attack the rehab to give himself an opportunity to get back on the floor and join his teammates,” Green said.
Williamson has played in 29 games this season and averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 60.8% from the floor.
Williamson has not played since Jan. 2, when he first injured the hamstring against the Philadelphia 76ers. Since Williamson went out, the Pelicans have lost 14 of their 20 games, including a 10-game losing streak. After holding a 23-14 record and a top three seed in the Western Conference the night Williamson was injured, New Orleans has fallen to 29-28 and are seventh in the West.
According to ESPN Analytics, the Pelicans had the hardest schedule in the league in January.
“We know that we’ve done this before and we understand what the next man up mentality means,” Griffin said. “This team has proven they can be very good exactly as they’re constructed now. … I think the important thing is we’re all very disappointed for Z, his teammates are disappointed for him, but we know what’s at stake and I think everybody knows what comes next.”
Last season, the Pelicans were in a similar situation as they made their playoff push without Williamson, who missed all of the 2021-22 season with a broken right foot. That Pelicans team made a trade at the deadline to acquire CJ McCollum and Larry Nance from the Portland Trail Blazers and those two — along with Brandon Ingram — helped lead the Pelicans into the play-in tournament as they won two games to grab the No. 8 seeds.
“Part of it is difficult because we all feel for Z having to navigate these injuries then a part of it is an opportunity for guys to kind of band together and go out and play our best basketball,” Green said. “There’s some good in it, there’s also some difficulties in it. We’ll navigate it as such. Goals this year were aimed higher to avoid the tournament and that’s something that is still very much in reach.
The West standings remain tight, with the Pelicans 1.5 back of fourth place and home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series, but also 1.5 games away from being out of the play-in tournament.
Fortunately for the Pelicans, they have the league’s easiest schedule throughout the rest of the season, based on opponent winning percentage. The Pelicans are at Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers before hitting the break.
Unfortunately, health is key. Along with Williamson, Ingram also missed a chunk of time this season as he dealt with a left big toe contusion. Ingram missed two months of time and returned on January 25. The Pelicans’ big three — Williamson, Ingram and McCollum — have only played in 10 games together for a total of 172 minutes. New Orleans has been plus-60 in those minutes.