Zion Williamson to miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing knee surgery

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in this past June’s NBA draft, will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on a torn right lateral meniscus, the team announced on Monday afternoon.

New Orleans opens its much anticipated 2019-20 schedule on Tuesday against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in Canada. The earliest side of his recovery timeline would keep him out until the first week of December, and an eight-week window would push his return closer to Christmas, when the Pelicans are scheduled to visit the Denver Nuggets. Either way, Williamson will miss somewhere between a quarter and a third of a season in which he was a favorite for Rookie of the Year.

The Pelicans ruled the star rookie out for Friday’s preseason finale against the New York Knicks on Thursday night, citing knee soreness. Initial reports reflected confidence from the organization that Williamson avoided severe injury, even as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 284-pound star would miss a “period of weeks.” This latest news sounds a little more dire.

Williamson missed all but one game in Summer League due to a bruised left knee. Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin said at the time it was out of an “abundance of caution” they were keeping him out. The new issue is on his other knee, the one that caused him to miss a portion of his freshman season at Duke when his shoe exploded and he suffered a sprain.

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Zion Williamson since being drafted by the Pelicans
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Zion Williamson since being drafted by the Pelicans
Duke's Zion Williamson greets fans as he is introduced during the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 20, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Zion Williamson, derecha, proveniente de la Universidad Duke, posa con el comisionado de la NBA Adam Silver tras ser elegido por los Pelicans de Nueva Orleáns en la primera ronda del draft de la liga, el jueves 20 de junio de 2019, en Nueva York. (AP Foto/Julio Cortez)
New Orleans Pelicans first-round NBA draft pick Zion Williamson smiles at his introductory news conference at the team's practice facility in Metairie, La., Friday, June 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Pelicans first-round draft pick Zion Williamson, second from right, poses with, left to right, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, coach Alvin Gentry, and team owner Gayle Benson, at his introductory news conference at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Metairie, La., Friday, June 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson runs upcourt during the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the New York Knicks on Friday, July 5, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)
New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson smiles while sitting on the bench during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday, July 6, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) looks to pass the ball during the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the New York Knicks on Friday, July 5, 2019, in Las Vegas. Knicks' Allonzo Trier is at right. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)
Zion Williamson, of the Duke University men's basketball team, accepts the award for best college athlete at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left with back facing camera, greets NBA basketball New Orleans Pelicans draft picks Zion Williamson, left, Jaxson Hayes, center, and head coach Alvin Gentry during training camp at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Friday, July 26, 2019. With them are Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, center with back to camera, and former Saints head coach Jim Mora, right. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
NBA player Zion Williamson, of the New Orleans Pelicans, arrives at the Kids' Choice Sports Awards on Thursday, July 11, 2019, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 14: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans warms up on the court before a semifinal game of the 2019 NBA Summer League against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) poses during their NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) scores during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) works against Atlanta Hawks Cam Reddish (22) during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in New Orleans, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) drives against San Antonio Spurs' Jakob Poeltl during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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Williamson’s rookie season pushed back

Prior to the injury, Williamson was enjoying a stellar preseason performance, averaging 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists over four games while shooting 71.4 percent from the field. He led the Pelicans in his most recent preseason game with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. His dunks have mesmerized fans, and he opened his NBA career with two of them.

A favorite for Rookie of the Year before the injury announcement, Williamson told Yahoo Sports’ Liz Roscher last week that he was more focused on the team than an individual accomplishment.

“To win a championship and have an impact on the team, that would be my dream rookie season,” he said.

New Orleans opens its home schedule a week from Friday against the Dallas Mavericks. The team has sold more season tickets than it has in the past decade and is now in the top half of the NBA in total sales thanks to the excitement Williamson brought to the city.

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