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Zion Williamson: Not mentally ready to return to the New Orleans Pelicans’ lineup

Star New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has missed the past 45 games due to a right hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season.

New Orleans had provided semi-weekly updates on the oft-injured star since he went down back on January 2. The latest update indicated that Williamson would miss the NBA Play-In Tournament.

With New Orleans set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder and a spot in the NBA Playoffs on the line Wednesday evening, the former No. 1 overall pick is opening up about his absence. According to Williamson, he’s doing everything from a physical standpoint during this process. However, the big man is not yet ready to return mentally.

“I can pretty much do everything. It’s just a matter of the level that I was playing at before my hamstring. I’m just a competitor. I don’t want to go out there and be in my own head and affect the team. I can just be on the sidelines supporting them more. I know myself. If I was to go out there, I would be in my head a lot. I would hesitate on certain moves. And that could affect the game.”

Zion Williamson on missing the New Orleans Pelican’s Play-In Tournament, via Nola.com

There is certainly a lot that goes into returning to the court after such a long absence. Making said return with the season on the line would’ve added another layer to this.

Back on February 12, Pelicans front office head David Griffin indicated that Williamson had suffered a setback in his return from the hamstring injury. At that point, he was expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks.

Two months later, and Zion will not be on the court when his Pelicans host Oklahoma City for a potential spot in the NBA Playoffs on the line. The winner of this game will take on the loser for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers matchup Tuesday night for an opportunity to earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs and take on the Denver Nuggets.

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Zion Williamson comments add a new layer to star forward’s situation

zion williamson, new orleans pelicans
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Williamson’s health aside, it’s all about being mentally ready to take to the court. A lack of confidence in making moves on offense and guarding on the other end of the court can create an adverse impact for a team, especially when we’re talking about high-drama situations in the postseason.

At issue here is Williamson’s general lack of availability since New Orleans made him the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Duke product has suited up in all of 114 games in four seasons. That includes just 29 outings since the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

  • Zion Williamson stats (2022-23): 26.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 4.6 APG, 61% shooting

New Orleans posted a 17-12 record in the 29 games Williamson suited up in during the regular season. It was three games under .500 with him sidelined.

The onus is now going to be on Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum to do their thing.