Zion Williamson's return to Pelicans delayed over 'soreness' in surgically repaired foot

Zion Williamson's timeline to return to the court has been delayed. 

Williamson was hoping to participate Thursday in his first full practice since having offseason surgery to repair a fractured right foot, but the New Orleans Pelicans announced that the 21-year-old didn't practice due to soreness in the same foot. 

Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson is "frustrated" by his latest setback.

"It’s something he’s been going through, and something he’s been working his tail off to come back from," Green said following Thursday's practice. "He understands though that this is a part of it. He’s just got to keep getting past these hurdles."

On Nov. 24, Williamson was medically cleared to participate in full team activities after undergoing imaging on his right foot, even participating in 4-on-4 full-court scrimmages days later. But with the ramp-up process following an injury, Green said "there's a possibility you can deal with a little bit of soreness, which he's dealing with now."

"It's a part of the process," he added. 

Pelicans star Zion Williamson underwent foot surgery, should be ready for season

The Pelicans plan to dial back Williamson's rehab the next few days to prevent further injury. Despite the setback, Green said he's "very optimistic" about Williamson's progression: "Hopefully the soreness goes away in a few days and he can get back to work."

The Pelicans are 6-18 so far without Williamson, who hasn't played this season, but Green said the team values Williamson's health over winning games. 

"It's more important to be patient," Green said. "We're talking about somebody's career. Anytime you're dealing with that aspect of professional sports that is important to remember. That's how we're looking at this. It's being diligent about getting him back on the floor. And that's a part of what we're dealing with right now."

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson looks up at the scoreboard in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in New Orleans, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Since being selected as the first overall pick in the 2019, Williamson's career has been riddled with injuries. Surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee prior to his rookie campaign limited him to 24 games that year. He fractured his left ring finger last year but played in 61 of 72 games.

In September, Pelicans vice president David Griffin said Williamson broke his fifth metatarsal in his right foot prior to summer league play.

Williamson has captivated audiences with his size, speed and athleticism, but some have questioned whether his body can sustain the pressure and power he exerts. 

TNT's Charles Barkley said he's "really concerned" about Williamson staying healthy. 

"You should not get hurt when you’re young," Barkley said in November. "He’s already had surgeries on his legs; now he’s got a broken foot. He going to have to learn even when you’re hurt, you’re gonna have to control your eating."