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Zion Williamson is finally making his NBA debut after a knee injury. Thank goodness

Zion Williamson is back. The NBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick is set to play the first regular season game of his career on Jan. 22 against the Spurs. The former Duke superstar tore his meniscus during preseason, had surgery in October, and has yet to return.

The New Orleans Pelicans have been patiently waiting for Williamson’s return. The Pelicans own one of the worst records in the NBA at 15-26 overall, but they’ve been playing better lately, winning seven of their last 10 games.

When did Williamson tear his meniscus? How’d it happen?

Little is known about how Williamson’s injury occurred. There wasn’t any singular play that took him out. At first, the Pelicans listed Williamson out due to knee soreness, unaware of the extent of his pain. It’s believed he tore it on October 13, in a preseason game against the Spurs.

Williamson’s size has been a major cause of discourse around the league. He’s listed at 6’6 and 284 pounds — he’s an absolute wall. That listed weight was the second-heaviest in the NBA to start the season, behind only 7’3 Boban Marjanovic. Some believe his massive frame contributed to the injury.

Williamson had surgery on October 21, and at that time, New Orleans announced his timetable for return was estimated to be six-to-eight weeks. Christmas Day makes nine weeks and two days since that announcement.

What’s Willamson’s status?

Williamson will be on the floor come Jan. 22 against the Spurs. He’s been inching closer to return, but the Pelicans were going to be as cautious as possible with him for a few reasons. First of all, he’s their future. After losing Anthony Davis by way of forced trade, Zion is New Orleans’ new hope. Second, the Pelicans totally stink. Starting 8-23, they had the fourth-worst record in the league, and a defense even Williamson can’t save. There’s no need to rush the 19-year-old back.

He’s slowly working his way into game-shape, though. Recently, Williamson was seen shooting again, and he’s returned to “weight-bearing” exercises.

“We’re really excited with where he’s at,” Pelicans Director of Basketball Operations David Griffin said on Dec. 17, per ESPN. “He’s made really good progress. I know we’ve reached the eight-week point, and everyone is ready to see him. I think we’re a little ways away yet, but today was a really big first step.

“It’s an important time for him because he’s fully weight-bearing. If we’re going to see a setback, it would be now. The teammates, the way they responded to him, the joy he has when he’s on the floor is evident. And we’ve obviously needed that.”

Now what?

Williamson is back at practice, so New Orleans felt comfortable bringing back just past the 50-percent mark of the season.

In Williamson’s absence, Brandon Ingram’s finally blossoming into an All-Star for the Pelicans. He’s averaging 25 points on 49-percent shooting from the field, and better than 40-percent three-point shooting on six tries per game. Lonzo Ball has been playing well lately, too

It feels so good to have Williamson back.

This Article was first Published on sbnation.com

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