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

SAN ANTONIO,TX - OCTOBER 13:  Zion Williamson #1  of the New Orleans Pelicans watches a foul shot taken against the San Antonio Spurs in a pre-season game  at AT&T Center on October 13 , 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.  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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson will miss the opening weeks of the season for the New Orleans Pelicans, per a report by ESPN. (Getty Images)

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.

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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