Pelicans' Williamson has setback with hamstring injury

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Newly acquired New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Richardson, right, smiles at forward Zion Williamson, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Zion Williamson has aggravated his previously injured right hamstring, extending the timeline for his return to “multiple weeks past All-Star break,” basketball operations chief David Griffin said Sunday.

Griffin said Williamson, who has been averaging 26 points per game this season, had progressed to the point where he was able to participate in 3-on-3 drills in practice and was on the court when he experienced his setback.

When asked how Williamson handled the setback emotionally, Griffin said, “it's fair to say not terribly well because he was really diligent in his rehab.”

“Unfortunately this is an injury that has a very high incidence of recurrence,” Griffin said. “It's nothing he did wrong to bring this about. ... It's an injury that's tricky and hard to navigate. I think you've seen other players around the league have those same re-incidences. It's not unique."

Williamson has missed 20 straight games since his initial hamstring injury on Jan. 2. If he misses the first two weeks after the All-Star break, he' will have been out at least 27 games.

Without Williamson, the Pelicans have gone 12-16, but a number of those games were played while high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram also was out.

Ingram is now back in the lineup and has scored 25 or more points in each of his past four games.

The Pelicans enter Monday night's game at Oklahoma City having won three of four, with the lone loss in that stretch coming against surging Cleveland, which is on a six-game winning streak.

The silver lining for the Pelicans is that they have virtually the same core players available now that they had during their playoff run last spring, when Williamson was recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him for all of last season.

The Pelicans also made a move at last week's NBA trade deadline that sent 6-foot-1 reserve guard Devonte' Graham to San Antonio for veteran 6-5 guard Josh Richardson, who is in his eighth season and is expected to help New Orleans defensively.

New Orleans is 29-28, placing it seventh in the Western Conference entering Sunday.

“We all feel for Z, having to navigate these injuries,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "It's an opportunity for guys to kind of band together and go out and play our best basketball.

Green, who played in the NBA for 12 seasons, said it will be important for Williamson to “get into a good mental space” now.

“It's going to be important for him to continue to attack the rehab to give himself an opportunity to get back on the floor,” Green said. “For the rest of the guys. ... We've created a standard. We know how we want to play. Guys have to do it and we all have to kind of come together while Z is out.”

The run the Pelicans made last spring without Williamson “helps our confidence,” Green said.

“It gives us not only the belief but the results to know that we can do it,” Green said. “We just got continue to go do the things we know we're capable of.”


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