Zion Williamson cleared for contact drills as injury rehab ramps up

By Sports Desk November 16, 2021

Zion Williamson moved a step closer to returning to NBA action on Tuesday as he was cleared for contact by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Williamson is entering his third year as a professional but has so far seen his hugely promising career hindered by injury.

The former first overall draft pick did not make his NBA debut until January in the 2019-20 campaign after tearing his meniscus in his rookie preseason.

Relatively minor issues limited Williamson to 61 games last season, but he has not yet featured in 2021-22 due to a right foot fracture, for which he had surgery in the offseason.

Despite understandable concerns about the forward's durability, Williamson has excelled against NBA opposition.

After 22.5 points per game in his rookie year, he improved to 27.0 last season and will return on a streak of scoring 20 in 15 straight games. Before Tuesday's games, that was tied with Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant for the longest such active streak in the league.

When that return will be remains uncertain, but the Pelicans brought positive news in their latest release.

"The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that forward Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in contact drills, beginning with one-on-one workouts and progressively working towards full team workouts," the team said.

"Williamson, who underwent imaging on his fractured right foot on Thursday [Nov. 11], was medically cleared by Dr. Richard Ferkel of Southern California Orthopedic Institute and Dr. Scott Montgomery of Ochsner Health.

"Williamson will undergo further medical imaging on November 24, which will determine his availability for full team workouts.

"Additional updates will be provided on his anticipated return to play timetable accordingly."

New Orleans are a miserable 2-13 in Williamson's absence this year. Only once (1-14 in 2004-05) in franchise history have they had a worse record through 15 games.

Since the 2019 NBA Draft, the Pelicans are now 40-45 (47.1) with Williamson and 23-51 (31.1) without him.

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