Zion Williamson ‘getting stronger’ after knee surgery, still not ready to return for Pelicans

Though he’s feeling better each day, Zion Williamson isn’t rushing his recovery after knee surgery.
Though he’s feeling better each day, Zion Williamson isn’t rushing his recovery after knee surgery. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

Zion Williamson can tell he’s getting stronger after undergoing surgery last month.

He’s just not ready to make his NBA debut just yet.

The New Orleans Pelicans rookie met with reporters Thursday for the first time since his knee surgery, but stopped short of revealing when he will make his return.

“When [the training staff] feels like I’m back to myself, they’ll let me play,” Williamson said, via ESPN. “It’s as simple as that.”

Williamson underwent arthroscopic surgery in his knee to repair a torn right lateral meniscus in October, and was given a six-to-eight week recovery window — which would result in a return to the court during the first half of December.

While he still at least a month left in his recovery based on that initial timeline, the reigning No. 1 overall draft pick can feel himself improving. He has spent his time rehabbing in New Orleans since the surgery, not traveling with the team to away games, in order to expedite the process as much as possible.

“I do feel like I’m getting stronger day by day,” Williamson said, via ESPN. “The trainers are telling me it’s getting stronger and I can feel the difference day by day.”

The 19-year-old shined in the preseason for the Pelicans. He averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over four games while shooting 71.4 percent from the field, and dropped a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds in his final outing earlier this fall. Williamson, however, missed their preseason finale due to knee soreness — which later revealed the need for surgery. Williamson missed all but one game in the Summer League in Las Vegas due to a knee bruise, too, though that was in his other knee.

It’s been a bit of a struggle for New Orleans without Williamson so far this season. The Pelicans have gotten off to a rough 1-6 start, with their lone win coming against the Denver Nuggets.

Though the Pelicans would undoubtedly be significantly better with Williamson in the lineup, he isn’t stressed about missing the beginning of his NBA career. After all, it’s only November — something he wants fans to remember, too.

“I don’t think people should panic at all,” Williamson said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We’re only seven games in. It’s a long season. I think if you asked me that question halfway through the season, I’ll be able to give you a more detailed answer. But for now, we’re seven games in out of 82.”

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