The New Orleans Pelicans season is over and the controversy over one of the team’s most controversial players has begun.
Zion Williamson was unavailable for a mandatory matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA play-in tournament. But he didn’t look like he was injured in his pregame workout.
Williamson threw a windmill dunk during his practice before the game, and many people wondered if he was really hurt.
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Williamson was also making hard, explosive moves on the court and hitting with a coach defending him. So it didn’t seem like his right hamstring, which he injured in January, was bothering him much.
He also said it wasn’t on Tuesday.
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«Physically, I’m fine,» Williamson said, via The Associated Press. «Now, it’s a matter of when I feel like Zion.»
What exactly is it like to feel like Zion?
«I can do almost anything, but it’s just a matter of the level I was playing at before my hamstring,» Williamson said. «I don’t want to go out and be in my own head and affect the team when I can be on the sidelines supporting them more because I know myself. If I had to go out, it would be in my head.» I would hesitate on certain moves and it could affect the game.»
Williamson hasn’t played for the Pelicans since Jan. 4 after a hamstring injury. He, too, aggravated the injury in February, which set him back.
Meanwhile, veteran guard CJ McCollum revealed that he has been playing through a thumb injury, which requires surgery in the offseason. A shoulder injury may also need surgery, but he played on Wednesday night.
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That’s another reason some had questions after seeing Williamson work the way he did.
Williamson is a two-time All-Star forward, including this season, despite only playing in 29 games. He averaged 26 points, displaying his speed, strength and explosiveness that led him to the first overall draft in 2019.
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But three of Williamson’s four seasons in New Orleans have been plagued by injuries. He had a sore foot last season that kept him out all year. In his rookie season, he played just 24 games. The Pelicans loved what they saw during the 2020-21 season, when he averaged 27 points in 61 games. But he hasn’t consistently stayed on the court.