Zion Williamson is unlikely to play on back-to-back nights when he returns from injury and finally makes his NBA regular-season debut, New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin has said.

The much-hyped number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is yet to take to the court in the regular season, having undergone surgery on his knee the day before the Pelicans' campaign started.

Williamson, who averaged over 23 points in preseason, was expected to be back within six to eight weeks, so his return is imminent.

However, the struggling 6-16 Pelicans will refrain from using Williamson on back-to-back nights initially.

"He very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially," Griffin told Fox Sports.

"There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he's certainly going to be playing, and we're trying to win basketball games, and quite frankly, we've done a horrible job of that."

The six-week point of Williamson's surgery passed earlier this week and Griffin insists he is still on course to be back within the initial timeframe laid out.

"He continues to progress," Griffin added.

"He's progressing very well. He feels very good about his process. And eight weeks is several days from now, and if we get outside of that, it will be because he hasn't met the metrics for return-to-play that are laid out for him and every player on our team.

"He will not be treated any differently in terms of the return-to-play metrics.

"Nothing's changed, the timeline has not changed.

"If he hits those metrics in seven weeks fine; if he hits them in 10 weeks, fine. We don't care when that is, but he's not getting on the court until he proves to us he's healthy, no matter what he wants to do."

New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin described speculation about rookie Zion Williamson's knee injury as "just asinine".

Williamson missed the Pelicans' season-opening 130-122 overtime loss to reigning champions the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday as the number one NBA draft pick recovers from injury.

The 19-year-old sensation – the most heralded rookie since LeBron James – will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing meniscus surgery on his right knee.

And Griffin is not about to listen to the speculation that Williamson's injury is the result of poor conditioning or the size he carries.

"The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is just asinine," Griffin told reporters. "He wasn't in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah.

"That's not what it is. He's just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective.”

Griffin added: "I've seen the narrative out there about him [that] this happened because he's not in shape and he's too big.

"That dude is a freak of nature. When he went through his physical, he ran on the treadmill longer than the cardio-stress test people have ever needed to put anybody through a test to get his heart rate up.

"That happened because he's touched by the hand of God to do this. He's in elite condition. He stays in elite condition."

Zion Williamson may be set to miss the first two months of his maiden NBA season, but the New Orleans Pelicans rookie looks destined to be a hit.

There was no doubt that Zion would be taken with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft and the Pelicans were fortunate enough to get that selection in the lottery despite only having a six per cent chance.

New Orleans will have to navigate the start of their new, post-Anthony Davis era without the Duke product, who underwent surgery on a knee injury sustained during preseason.

Zion will surely remain a potentially world-beating talent upon his return, but how have the other No.1 picks from this decade fared in the league?

 

2010: John Wall (Washington Wizards) - Miss

Wall is undoubtedly a hugely talented point guard but he has struggled with injuries and played just 73 regular season games in the past two years. The Wizards have only made the playoffs four times since selecting him and have not gone beyond the second round. He may not return from a torn Achilles until 2021 either.

2011: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) - Hit

After being named Rookie of the Year in 2012, Irving went from strength to strength and claimed a championship alongside LeBron James four years later. However, he was unsuccessful in a leading role with the Boston Celtics and will hope to put problems with his knee behind him and gain another ring with Kevin Durant at the Brooklyn Nets.

2012: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets) - Hit

Davis was unquestionably the right pick and he led New Orleans back to the playoffs after a three-year absence in 2015, though they fell in the first round to eventual champions the Golden State Warriors. He only managed to guide them into the postseason once more, as part of a formidable front court with DeMarcus Cousins in 2017-18, but links to the Los Angeles Lakers disrupted his final campaign with the Pelicans.

2013: Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers) - Miss

The first Canadian to go first overall in the NBA Draft did not have the career that was projected. He averaged just 4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 12.8 minutes in his debut campaign and was quickly moved on by the Cavs. After stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors and Nets he dropped out of the league, with the highlight of his career being a EuroLeague title at Fenerbahce in 2017.

2014: Andrew Wiggins (Cleveland Cavaliers) - Miss

The Cavs sacrificed Wiggins and Bennett in order to get Kevin Love from the Timberwolves, who formed part of their championship-winning 'big three' alongside James and Irving. The Canadian signed a mammoth five-year contract worth almost $150million after averaging 23.6 points in the 2016-17 season, but he has failed to repeat those scoring exploits and looks destined not to live up to expectations.

2015: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) - Hit

Towns won Rookie of the Year in 2016 and has proved a much more useful piece for Minnesota, who are in possession of one of the NBA's so-called 'unicorns'. Big things are expected of the 23-year-old center this season after the two-time All-Star expressed excitement at being able to "use all my talent" under new head coach Ryan Saunders.

2016: Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers) - Hit

Having missed the 2016-17 season through injury, Simmons was the runaway Rookie of the Year in the following campaign after leading the Sixers to a 52-30 season and the Eastern Conference semifinals - ending the barren years in which Philadelphia's mantra was 'Trust the Process'. He showed a lack of progression in his second year and needs to add a decent jump shot to his game, but were the towering guard to become available there would be plenty of interest.

2017: Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers) - Miss

Fultz was selected by Philadelphia because of the threat he offered on the perimeter, but in one of the most bizarre stories in recent NBA history he appeared to completely forget how to shoot. He played just 33 games across two seasons before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, and the Sixers cut their losses and dealt him to the Orlando Magic in February.

2018: DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns) - TBC

The Suns appear to have secured a hit with their maiden first overall pick in Ayton, the center having become just the third rookie this decade to average a double-double. He managed to impress on a 19-win team but needs more time before his worth can be properly judged.

For the first time in six seasons, there may be a new winner of the Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors, winners of the conference in each of the previous five campaigns, have lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson to injury.

The Los Angeles Lakers added Anthony Davis but didn't improve nearly as much as the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that was better than them last season and have since added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

All we can do is guess who will win the conference this season and it could easily be an under-the-radar team like the Utah Jazz, who added Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Here's what we think you can expect this season.

Team on the rise: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas improved a lot last year with Luka Doncic coming into the fold and now they will have a healthy Kristaps Porzingis. We'll have to see how it works in the long run, but this team appears to clearly be trending upward.

Team on the slide: Oklahoma City Thunder

This is obvious. Oklahoma City lost Russell Westbrook and George. A step back is inevitable. But this team has talent with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder and Hamidou Diallo. We'll see how it works out and if the Thunder trade any of those guys to hasten their rebuild.

MVP: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

No Durant and no Thompson. That means a lot more shots for Stephen Curry. The big question is how he will fit with D'Angelo Russell, who is a lot more ball-dominant than Thompson. But if they can work well together, we could see the two-time MVP-level production from Curry again. 

Rookie of the Year: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

An obvious candidate. Williamson has already won the Rookie of the Year Award if he can get through the season healthy - and there are doubts about that given he will miss the start of the season due to knee surgery. Williamson will be on a team without a ton of talent and on highlights every single night. That's a great recipe to win Rookie of the Year.

Stat shot: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Jokic has averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists each of the last two years. Only Westbrook and Oscar Robertson have done that over a three-year span.

The Nuggets might not have added as much as some of the other teams in the West (see the Houston Rockets, Clippers, Lakers), but one more year of development of Jokic and Jamal Murray, plus a healthy Michael Porter Jr, should keep this team in contention for a playoff spot.

Three storylines

1. The Rockets duo: Will Westbrook and James Harden be able to mesh together in an offense? And how will Westbrook's shooting struggles fit with Mike D'Antoni?

2. Clutch performers: Will Davis and LeBron James dominate the league like we think they can or will the duo once again struggle to stay healthy?

3. A pair reigns supreme: Is it Harden and Westbrook? James and Davis? Leonard and George? Donovan Mitchell and Conley? Doncic and Porzingis?

Predicted order of finish

1. Clippers*
2. Lakers
3. Jazz
4. Rockets
5. Nuggets
6. Warriors
7. Trail Blazers
8. Spurs
9. Mavericks
10. Kings
11. Pelicans
12. Timberwolves
13. Thunder
14. Grizzlies
15. Suns

*NBA Finals representative

Zion Williamson is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks after undergoing knee surgery on Monday, the New Orleans Pelicans have announced. 

New Orleans said the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had an arthroscopic procedure to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. 

Williamson missed last Friday's preseason finale against the New York Knicks due to "right knee soreness".

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters the team believes Williamson hurt his knee earlier this month against the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson averaged 23.3 points in four preseason games.

Zion Williamson's regular season NBA debut has been put on ice due to the New Orleans Pelicans rookie's knee injury, according to reports.

The Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that Williamson, the number one overall draft pick, would miss Friday's final preseason game against the New York Knicks due to "right knee soreness".

The 19-year-old instead remained in New Orleans for further testing and evaluation.

ESPN reported on Friday that the issue was set to keep Williamson out for a number of weeks, meaning he would miss the start of the NBA season, although he was said to have avoided serious injury.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters that the team believe Williamson hurt his knee on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Gentry told ESPN the former Duke sensation remained in high spirits, though, adding: "He's not dead, guys."

Williamson featured in four preseason games prior to the Knicks game, averaging 23.3 points.

New Orleans open the 2019-20 season against defending champions the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson will miss the team's final NBA preseason game with right knee soreness.

The Pelicans will face the New York Knicks on Friday without young star Williamson, it was announced on Thursday.

Williamson did not make the trip to New York and will remain in New Orleans to undergo further evaluation.

In four preseason games for the Pelicans this season, Williamson – the number one draft pick – has averaged 23.3 points.

The Pelicans open their regular-season campaign against defending champions the Toronto Raptors on October 22.

Zion Williamson rose to the occasion on his first home match as an NBA player, scoring a game-high 26 points in the New Orleans Pelicans' preseason win over the Utah Jazz.

The Pelicans triumphed 128-127, with Williamson's impressive points tally coming in only 23 minutes on the court.

Drafted number one overall ahead of the 2019-20 season, the 19-year-old also had five rebounds and a plus-minus of +13, the best recorded by a player on either team.

Williamson shot 9-of-12 from the field, draining his only three-point attempt from 25 feet of the match to score his first in the professional ranks.

He battled with the Jazz's defensive star Rudy Gobert, delighting the sold-out crowd at the Smoothie King Center by making two layups against the Frenchman, collecting two fouls and following up his one miss in their enthralling head-to-head with a two-handed slam.

"You gotta give him respect, two-time Defensive Player of the Year," Williamson said of Gobert after the game. 

"I just went in there strong and tried to finish."

Of his first career three, Williamson added: "It was great, my first instinct was how to get back on defense as coach gets upset about that. 

"Hopefully I get a lot more of them throughout the year.

"It was great to finally get out here and see the support we have here in New Orleans. I'm glad they came out, hopefully we'll see them all season. I hope I can continue to play the way I am."

Prior to facing the Jazz, he had 29 points in 27 minutes against the Chicago Bulls after a 16-point debut against the Atlanta Hawks.

Gobert took solace in not being dunked on by Williamson but said: "He has a great future ahead of him.

"He's kind of surprisingly agile and I think he catches a lot of people off guard because of that. He can change direction pretty quick."

Zion Williamson described his NBA debut as "a lot of fun" after he produced one of his customary dunks in the New Orleans Pelicans' preseason win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Williamson was on the floor for 28 minutes of the Pelicans' 133-109 victory in Atlanta, with the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft scoring 16 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

He also produced a moment which showed just why he is one of the most hyped prospects to enter the league, driving at Hawks center Damian Jones and bypassing his attempted block to finish with authority.

"It was a lot of fun," Williamson said afterwards.

"First NBA game – it's not going to count on the record – but it's the first one of hopefully many and I'm glad I can get that one under my belt."

Discussing his dunk on Jones, he added: "I just saw the lane open up and this isn't high school or college anymore, you've got to go up strong so I went up strong and I was able to finish."

However, Williamson was keen to stress he is so much more than just a player capable of producing highlight-worthy plays.

"I don't think just dunking would have got me here," he said.

"I had to be somewhat of a good basketball player to get here, so whenever I have a chance to showcase my other abilities I try."

While it appeared that Williamson was enjoying himself, he noted that he still has plenty to learn.

He was 0-for-2 on three-point attempts and was heckled by the crowd for missing a free-throw try, ending up 4-for-7 from the line.

"If it was up to me I'd probably be out there laughing and joking a lot more," Williamson admitted.

"But I'm a rookie, I’m trying to feel things out. If I feel like I can do a lot more laughing and playing, I'm going to do it. But for now I'm low-key."

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry wants the comparisons of Zion Williamson to LeBron James to stop.

Williamson, the top pick in the 2019 draft, has been touted as one of the NBA's next greats, which has led to him being likened to future Hall of Famer James

However, Gentry wants to nip such talk in the bud as the preseason gets underway.

"They shouldn't do that [comparing]," the Pelicans coach said, via ESPN. "We are not doing that. We are comparing Zion to Zion. We want Zion to be the best Zion Williamson that he can be. Not anybody else. We want him to be the best basketball player he can become using his name and no comparison.

"I know that it's inevitable that that's going to be the case, but we are not drinking that Kool-Aid."

Williamson garnered buzz during his lone season with Duke, where it was quickly projected he would be the first overall pick in the draft.

"There's very few guys — at 19 years old — who can come in and impact this league," Gentry said. "There's one in California but there's also not anybody like him."

Despite the hype, Williamson and Gentry seem to be trying to have fun before the season.

When Williamson walked past Gentry as he was talking to reporters, he joked: "Did they ask about me?" 

Gentry replied: "Now why would they do that?"

Williamson will take to the court in his first preseason game on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.

Zion Williamson is still having fun as he prepares for his rookie season in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The No.1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is under pressure to perform after averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in his lone season at Duke last year.

Yet the 19-year-old showed no signs he is feeling the strain at the team's media day on Monday, even if he is only two years removed from playing basketball in high school.

"I'm very excited. This is what the dream was all about," Williamson said. "Making it to the league and having an impact. And the impact starts tomorrow.

"I think when people look at what I'm doing and say it's very stressful, but I’m having fun with it. Like, in all these meetings, when I'm meeting my new team-mates an trying to gel with them, it's a fun process.

"I'm 19. Like two years ago I was a senior in high school and now I'm sitting here. So I think about stuff like that. It's a blessing to be here."

While understanding the NBA is a different in terms of competition, Williamson is confident of thriving in a new environment - and has settled in quickly to life in New Orleans.

"Drew Brees said it best. If you love the city, It'll love you right back," the teenager said. "It's great. I know I'm in the right place with Jrue [Holiday] and JJ [Redick], and E'Twaun Moore. Since I've been here they've been giving me great advice.

"Whenever they think I'm over-thinking things or seem stressed they'll be the first ones to come to be and just say: 'Relax, be you. Just play the game you love.' And it's the small things like that that help a lot, and I just get going.

"I want all the advice I can get because everybody has different perspectives. If I can get advice from multiple perspectives, I can find a way to bring it together and find out what's best for me."

Zion Williamson's fellow NBA rookies do not expect him to have the best career of the players in his draft class, with Cam Reddish coming out on top in the league's annual rookie survey.

Only five per cent of respondents in the survey believe Williamson will have the best career of the 2019 draftees.

Atlanta Hawks guard Reddish, meanwhile, received 19 per cent of the vote for the question.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (16 per cent) and Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (11 per cent) also ranked higher than Williamson.

Three other players – Jaxson Hayes, who will play alongside Williamson for the New Orleans Pelicans, RJ Barrett and Coby White matched the small forward at five per cent.

Reddish, who was selected at number 10 by the Hawks, and Williamson were team-mates at Duke Blue Devils.

Williamson was the story of college basketball last season and averaged 22.6 points, along with 8.9 rebounds, while shooting 68 per cent from the field.

He was the consensus top prospect in the 2019 draft and the Pelicans chose him with the number one pick.

However, Williamson is favoured to win the Rookie of the Year among members of his draft class, as 35 per cent of respondents in the survey predicted he would take home the award.

Zion Williamson is planning on spending his entire career with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans forward was selected with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after a stunning freshman year at Duke and many expect him to blossom into a superstar.

It has been suggested Williamson will only spend a few seasons with New Orleans before leaving to sign with a major market for his prime years.

However, Williamson wants to emulate Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki by sticking with one franchise.

"I'm gonna try to give you the best answer I can give. Personally, I've always told myself I want to stay with one team," Williamson told Complex. 

"Growing up, I loved what Kobe did and Dirk did, and I think if anybody's a Michael Jordan fan, they kinda erase the Wizards thing. He still did very well there, but at the end of the day, I don't think people look at it from the business point of view.

"Some people want to stay with one team but they get traded. My intentions are to stay with the Pelicans my whole career, but if something happens, I wouldn't leave because I hate the place. It's just the business."

Williamson believes New Orleans can be a championship contender in 2019-20 despite the fact the team missed last year's playoffs.

The Pelicans brought in a talented rookie class in 2019 by securing first-round picks in Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. They also sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a massive haul that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple future first-rounders.

"Me being confident in my team-mates, I would say I think the ceiling is [a] championship," Williamson said.

"But I have to be realistic about this. I have high expectations for us, but you gotta see how we're gonna work. I think we are going to work, but it does take time to adjust to each player — knowing what they like to do, finding out their tendencies.

"So, I think the quicker we find out those things, I think we have a very high ceiling."

Zion Williamson has been a pro for one month and is already joining the elite.

On Tuesday, the NBA's top overall draft pick announced a shoe deal with Nike's Jordan Brand.

The New Orleans Pelicans forward follows the likes of Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in signing with the brand.

"Zion's incredible determination, character and play are inspiring," Michael Jordan said in a release. "He's an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future.

"He told us he would 'shock the world' and asked us to believe him. We do."

"I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson said. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today.

"He was one of those special athletes I looked up to and I really can't express how happy and excited I am for this journey."

Williamson, who turned 19 earlier this month, was selected first overall by New Orleans in June's draft.

He averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in his lone college season at Duke.

David Griffin saw the future of the New Orleans Pelicans in a brief moment during NBA Summer League practice, and the executive vice president of basketball operations said things look "crazy" good.

Griffin introduced recruits Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart after a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers centred on Anthony Davis, and Derrick Favors – acquired from the Utah Jazz.

Coupled with first pick Zion Williamson and eighth selection Jaxson Hayes, along with returning guard Jrue Holiday, and the Pelicans are expected to be one of the most-improved teams in the NBA in 2019-20.

Griffin is thrilled with what he has seen so far, like that special moment in a recent Summer League practice.

"There was a moment where Jaxson Hayes was out running the floor in a practice with Zion on the other side, and they were sort of just messing around … and the speed those guys have just at a trot is mind-numbing," Griffin told reporters on Tuesday. "Alvin and I looked at it and we thought, 'Man with those guys on the wing, and with Lonzo at the point, what we'll be able to do speed-wise is crazy'."

That is crazy in a good way for the Pelicans, unlike last season's 33-49 craziness, lowlighted by the persistent trade rumours surrounding Davis.

Griffin said he is excited all the acquisitions come from winning backgrounds, adding: "We want to surround ourselves with people that have won championships on any level, because it's a frequency you learn to tune to. We're deep with selfless winners."

Former Lakers guard Ball welcomes the move to New Orleans, saying: "It's a fresh start. It's a restart. … I know the media is not like it was in LA, but I know the fans are great and come out and support [us]."

Ball added: "I'm getting back to playing the style I've been playing my whole life, I'm very comfortable in a high uptempo offense like coach Gentry has."

The Pelicans will enter this season with high expectations and playing under a microscope with Williamson on display. But Griffin wants the players to believe anything is possible.

"Look at what the NBA has become, and the way teams are built," Griffin said. "You can't dream big enough in this league. I think I want everyone's approach to this to be, 'Why not us?'"

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