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Zion Williamson to continue foot rehab away from New Orleans

Kurt Helin explains why Ja Morant deserves getting recognition for his performance with the Memphis Grizzlies and if he should be considered an All-Star.

Last month the Pelicans announced a setback in Zion Williamson’s recovery from offseason foot surgery and that the “volume and intensity of his training will be reduced for an extended period.” That was both vague and ominous.

Wednesday came the latest report from the Pelicans, that he continues his rehab away from the team but under team medical supervision. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he is doing his rehab in the Portland area.

“As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult process for me,” Williamson said in a statement released by the team. “I know there’s work to be done in my recovery before I can safely return to the court, but I will continue to put in the time necessary so I can get back on the floor with my team and represent Pelicans fans and the city of New Orleans at the highest level. Basketball means everything to me, and I am thankful for the Pelicans organization and everyone who has surrounded me with love and support throughout this journey – my family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and everybody who has stood behind me and uplifted me when I needed it most.”

A player doing lengthy rehab work away from the team is not unusual, nor is it a problem so long as he is following doctors’ orders, putting in the work, and sticking to the plan.

Williamson had surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal (the bone connecting the little toe and the ankle), but it is not healing the way doctors had hoped, forcing them to scale back his workouts. That is an area of the foot other players — Ben Simmons, for example — had slower than expected healing.

While Williamson may return later this season, it feels less and less likely. The 13-25 Pelicans sit second to last in the West and not in a position where Zion might push to be back for a playoff run.

The big question hanging out there: Zion is eligible for a max contract extension this summer. Will the Pelicans give it to him? Will there be health or games played provisions (not unlike Joel Embiid had in his rookie extension)? And who will be the GM answering those questions? It’s going to be an interesting offseason in the Big Easy.