The New Orleans Pelicans have exercised caution throughout Zion Williamson's rehab from a knee injury, and that won't change once the rookie phenom makes his long-awaited debut, according to Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin.
"He very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially," Griffin said on the team's television broadcast during Thursday's matchup against the Phoenix Suns. "There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he's certainly going to be playing and we're trying to win basketball games."
The No. 1 pick has yet to play a game this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right lateral meniscus suffered during the Pelicans' second-last preseason game.
Williamson was originally given a six-to-eight week recovery timetable, but he'll reportedly return outside of that window. However, Griffin indicated that delay possibly won't be due to a setback.
"If we get outside of (eight weeks), it will be because he hasn’t met the metrics for return to play that are laid out for him and every player on our team," Griffin said. "He will not be treated any differently in terms of the return to play metrics. We have been much more cautious with him in terms of how quickly we’ve ramped him up from stage to stage, because he's 19 and he's still growing, and he was 285 pounds when he had the surgery."
Williamson averaged 23.3 points on 71.4% shooting while adding 6.5 boards and 2.3 assists per contest during the preseason.
New Orleans eventually fell 139-132 to the Suns on Thursday in overtime for the team's seventh straight loss. The Pelicans sit second-last in the Western Conference with a 6-16 record.