All-Star forward Zion Williamson has aggravated his hamstring injury, and the New Orleans Pelicans revealed he will miss multiple weeks because of this latest setback.
The Pelicans did not give a time line on his exact return. But Williamson will sit out the NBA All-Star Game this coming weekend. Fans voted in Williamson as a starter from the Western Conference.
We’re looking at multiple weeks past the All-Star break that he’ll be back,” said David Griffin, vice president of basketball operations. “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.”
For a brief moment in mid-December, the Pelicans seized the #1 seed in the Western Conference during a seven-game winning streak, thanks in part to stellar play on both ends of the court from Williamson.
Prior to his injury, Williamson led the Pelicans in scoring by averaging 26 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He also shot 60.8% from the floor, which was ranked #8 in the league at the time.
Another Setback for Zion
Williamson initially sustained a right hamstring injury against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 2. Before Williamson’s injury, the Pelicans were in third place in the Western Conference and had the fourth-best record in the NBA.
Williamson missed the last 21 games. The Pelicans (30-28) went 7-14 during that stretch, and slipped to seventh place without their leading scorer.
The Pelicans thought Williamson would only miss three weeks and return to the lineup in late January. However, Williamson had a slow recovery, so the Pelicans targeted early February for his return.
Williamson was not at 100% health, so he could not engage in full-contact practices at the start of February. He was clear to participate in 3-on-3 half-court drills with teammates to improve his conditioning.
Williamson aggravated his hamstring injury last week during a 3-on-3 drill, which is a devastating setback.
Unfortunately this is an injury that has a really high incidence of recurrence,” added Griffin. “It’s nothing he did wrong to bring this about. He was very diligent in the process and it just is what it is.”
With only 24 games remaining in the regular season, the Pelicans are in a tough situation. They do not want to rush Williamson back, but they’re in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
In a perfect world, Williamson misses five more weeks and returns in late March before a tough four-game road trip against the top teams in the Western Conference.
Zion’s Reinjury Impacts the Futures Market
If the season ended today, the seventh-place Pelicans would be bound for the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. The Play-In Tournament determines the final two playoff seeds, and includes teams between seventh place and tenth place in the conference.
The middle-heavy Western Conference has eighth teams within three games of each other that spans fifth place through twelfth place. The final quarter of the regular season is crucial for these eight teams stuck in the middle of the standings, so losing Williamson for a few more weeks was a crushing blow to the Pelicans.
The Pelicans continued their slide in the NBA futures market at +4500 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship. Last week, the Pelicans were +2500 odds when multiple outlets reported Williamson was working out with the team.
On December 30, the Pelicans were 11 games above .500 and their championship odds reached their best number of the season at +1800.
The Memphis Grizzlies (34-22) hold a 4.5-game lead over the Dallas Mavs (31-28) in the Southwest Division. As bad as the Pelicans played without Williamson, they’re only five games out of first place in the division.
The Grizzlies are favorites to win the Southwest Division at -450 odds, followed by the Mavs at +350 and the Pelicans at +2500.
Easy Schedule Ahead for Pelicans
The Pelicans have the benefit of the easiest schedule in the NBA with 24 games remaining in the regular season. Their opponents have a combined winning percentage of .471, according to strength of schedule.
After the All-Star break, the Pelicans play three games against the two worst teams in the Western Conference. The Pelicans have consecutive road games against the Houston Rockets (13-44) in mid-March, which precedes a two-game homestand against the San Antonio Spurs (14-44) and Charlotte Hornets (16-43).
FiveThirtyEight suggested the Pelicans have a 64% chance to qualify for the postseason with a projected final record of 43-39.
The Pelicans play one more game prior to the All-Star break with a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers (26-32). The Pelicans are +3 road underdogs in Hollywood on Wednesday night.
In two previous meetings versus the Lakers, the Pelicans split both games. The first game in L.A. in November was close, but the Lakers prevailed in overtime. In the second game played two weeks ago, the Pelicans defeated the Lakers in a shootout in New Orleans. That much-needed victory ended a ten-game losing streak for the Pelicans. The win also fired up the team, and the Pelicans went 4-1 since then.
The Pelicans are 28-29-1 against the spread (ATS) this season. But they’re 4-1 ATS in their last five games.
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