When New Orleans acquired CJ McCollum, it reportedly did it without any assurance that Williamson would return this season
Zion Williamson hasn’t played a single game this season, and the New Orleans Pelicans‘ franchise player might need a second foot surgery, according to NOLA.com’s Christian Clark. And while the Pelicans have been mostly silent about his status since their Jan. 5 announcement that he would rehab away from the team — VP David Griffin said a week ago that Williamson “continues to progress well, anecdotally at least” and they hope to have an update after he gets more imaging done — they have been operating under the assumption that he’s not coming back anytime soon, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Thursday, Windhorst said: “A couple of weeks ago, the coaching staff and the players became aware not to expect Zion back for the foreseeable future. So when they entered the trade deadline and made the big move for CJ McCollum, they did that knowing that there was a good chance Zion wasn’t going to be able to play in the short term and maybe the rest of the season.”
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In a win-now move, New Orleans acquired McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell from the Portland Trail Blazers last week in exchange for a package headlined by Josh Hart and a first-round pick. If it wasn’t already clear when Griffin confirmed that Nance was having knee surgery, though, the now in win-now can be squishy. The Pelicans are trying to make the play-in this season, but that is not why they made the move. Ideally, McCollum will build some chemistry with Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones and Jonas Valanciunas, and, if Williamson’s foot heals to the point where he can return, maybe the whole core will get to play together in the not-too-distant future. Either way, Griffin’s front office has positioned the team to make a jump in the standings next year, after some more roster tweaks and a full training camp.
New Orleans is 23-35 and 11th in the Western Conference heading into Thursday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. It is 1 1/2 games behind the Blazers for the final play-in spot. Portland is also without its franchise player, Damian Lillard, and seemed to be punting the rest of the season when it made the McCollum trade (and the trade that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers), but it has inconveniently won four straight games.