We haven’t seen Zion Williamson play in a game for the New Orleans Pelicans in over ten months.
Last season, he missed 53 games, primarily because of a leg injury that kept him out since January 2. On Tuesday, he returned to the court. The Pelicans, led by Williamson, played the Orlando Magic in their first practice game.
On defense, he needed to look more ready for prime time. In the first quarter, fellow former Blue Devil Paolo Banchero beat him on a drive and dunk.
Later in the quarter, he dunked the ball over the basket and looked much like himself.
He showed how good he was at seeing the court by passing across the court to set up a 3-pointer by Jordan Hawkins.
Williamson had a tough time matching up with Banchero, the defending Rookie of the Year and 4 inches taller than Williamson. But in the end, he had a good stat line: 12 points, five boards, five assists, and 4 of 8 field goal shooting in 16 minutes of play.
Williamson’s return was a nice sight for Pelicans fans in New Orleans, who were excited to see their star player play hoops again. Since he joined the NBA in 2019, Williamson has skipped 214 regular-season games and played 144. In 2022–2023, his season finished early because people kept criticizing his diet and fitness. He missed the whole 2021–22 season because he hurt his foot.
Williamson owned up to his critics this summer and promised to do things to get in better shape. Fans will believe it when they see it now. It’s more than just 15 minutes in a practice game to see it.