Zion’s chances of a regular-season return to Pelicans are fading

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Zion Williamson
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

METAIRIE, La. – Zion Williamson’s chances of returning to the New Orleans Pelicans during the regular season are vanishing rapidly.

The Pelicans announced Wednesday that Williamson, who has not played since straining his right hamstring in a 120-111 loss at Philadelphia on January 2, will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

That means the next update will come April 5, when the Pelicans host Memphis in the third-to-last game of the regular season.

After practice Wednesday, head coach Willie Green wouldn’t rule out that Williamson could play on the same day that he’s re-evaluated but that seems highly unlikely. New Orleans hosts New York on April 7 and visits Minnesota in the regular-season finale April 9.

“I can’t confirm whether he’ll be back or not,” Green said.

The Pelicans said that Williamson “has been cleared to return to on-court activities.” But Green said the organization is “taking a slower approach” to the All-Star forward’s rehab after he suffered “a re-injury” in February.

New Orleans has plummeted in the Western Conference standings while Williamson, who is averaging 26.0 points per game, is second on the team in rebounding (7.0), third in assists (4.6) and is shooting 60.8 percent from the floor, has been sidelined.

The Pelicans, who briefly had the best record in the West in December, were 23-14 after the loss to Philadelphia but are just 12-23 since.

They have won their last two games, including a 119-84 victory against short-handed San Antonio on Tuesday in the Smoothie King Center, and going into Wednesday’s games they were tied with the Lakers, a half-game behind Utah and Minnesota, which are tied for the final two play-in spots.

New Orleans has 10 games remaining, starting with a home game against Charlotte on Thursday.

“We feel like we’re getting to a good place for the final 10 games,” Green said.

Brandon Ingram, the team’s second-leading scorer, who had 32 points against the Spurs, has missed 37 games due to injuries. The Pelicans’ preferred starting lineup of Williamson, Ingram, guards CJ McCollum and Herbert Jones Jr. and center Jonas Valanciunas has been in tact for just 10 games. New Orleans has won six of those games.

“It’s been a constant adjustment all season,” Green said. “Every team in the league comes in with expectations and goals and excitement based on knowing what your team would look like full.

“We haven’t been full for the majority of the season and that’s frustrating. But now you look at where you are and keep trying to improve and continue to try and instill confidence in our group and stay focused on winning games.”

It also appears that reserve point guard Jose Alvarado will miss the rest of the regular season. He has missed the last 10 games due to a stress reaction in his right tibia and the Pelicans announced that he will be re-examined in two-three weeks.

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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