Zion Williamson's return delayed again by soreness in surgically repaired foot

New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin dropped a bombshell at preseason media day when he revealed that Zion Williamson had foot surgery to repair a fracture suffered prior to summer league.

He assured reporters that Williamson's "timeline should get him back on the court in time for the regular season." That was on Sept. 27. Williamson missed the Oct. 20 season opener. He hasn't played since. On Thursday, the Pelicans revealed that Williamson's return will be further delayed.

Zion Williamson held out of practice with foot soreness

Per the Pelicans, Williamson has experienced soreness in his surgically repaired foot since he was cleared for full practice participation on Nov. 26. He skipped practice on Thursday and will return to resting his injured foot. Head coach Willie Green answered questions from reporters about Williamson's latest setback.

"It's a part of the process," Green said. "When you're dealing with injuries and you ramp up some, there's a possibility you can deal with a little bit of soreness which he's dealing with now."

The Pelicans don't consider the setback serious, and Green described Williamson's soreness as a "hurdle." But as he continued to discuss Williamson's status, Green addressed the downside realities of a foot injury for an athlete — a concern that's exacerbated by Williamson's listed 284-pound frame.

"It's more important to be patient," Green continued. "We're talking about somebody's career. Anytime you're dealing with that aspect of professional sports, that is important. That's how we're looking at this. It's being diligent about how to get him back on the floor. And that's a part of what we're doing right now."

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson stands near the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)
When will Zion Williamson return to the court? (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

What's next for Zion?

The next step is simply to wait and see, according to Green. If Williamson's soreness dissipates with rest, then he'll ramp back up his basketball activities. Green didn't address the alternative.

The 6-18 Pelicans are a half-game out of last place in the Western Conference with their playoff hopes all but extinguished six weeks into the regular season. BetMGM has the Pelicans' championship odds at a whopping +25000; the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic have the worst title odds at +75000.

Interest in the Pelicans is minimal without Williamson, and ESPN announced on Thursday that it's pulling a Dec. 17 game against the Milwaukee Bucks from the network in favor of a Los Angeles Lakers-Minnesota Timberwolves matchup.

While the Pelicans are surely desperate to have Williamson back on the court, there's no telling at this point when he'll make his 2021-22 debut.