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Zion Williamson admits he was in a ‘dark place’ at points during rehab

Detroit Pistons v New Orleans Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 07: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans stands on the court prior to the start of an NBA preseason game against the Detroit Pistons at Smoothie King Center on October 07, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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All eyes are going to be on Zion Williamson and the Pelicans this season — they are going to be League Pass favorites, a highly entertaining team that also could be top-six in the West good.

But it took a lot for Zion to get to this pace again.

He missed all of last season recovering from surgery from a broken foot — which also limited what he could do in rehab — and he admitted that sent him to a dark place at times, especially after a December setback. Zion opened up about all of it to Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated.

“I was in dark places at times,” Williamson says, “because I couldn’t play basketball. I could only do limited rehab things. And then just seeing how the world reacted? It took a lot. It did a lot on my spirit.”...

The setback Williamson suffered in early December—tests showed regression in the healing of his broken foot—had crushed his spirit. “I was rehabbing,” he says, “and in my mind I’m thinking, Man, in two weeks I’m about to play again. And then I didn’t....

“I felt helpless. I couldn’t do nothing about it. While [pundits] are telling me I don’t care about my teammates, or I’m a bad teammate, or I don’t want to be somewhere, the whole time I’m worried about my foot. I’m worried about, Man, I hope my foot heals right, because if it doesn’t, who knows, I may not get to play basketball again.”

The weight on him also weighed on his family, which added to Zion’s dark place.

What brought him back was support from his families — the one he was born into and the Pelicans, such as a long talk with assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon — and him finally being healthy enough to get back on the court. Read the SI story, it’s a fantastic dive into what changed and where Zion is now.

Zion was willing to put in the work when physically able, and the results in the preseason have looked good.

But that’s just preseason. Zion doesn’t have to worry about money, he inked a max contract with the Pelicans, who made a bet he could follow in Joel Embiid’s footsteps of bouncing back from a foot injury. If he does, if his game can blend with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and a deep roster of solid role players, the Pelicans are not going to just be entertaining, they’re going to be dangerous.

Most importantly for Zion, he is back in his comfortable, happy space, showing off his infectious smile and savoring the moment. When the things we love but can take for granted are taken away, we appreciate them more. Zion clearly feels that way about basketball, and it could make for a wild season in the Big Easy.