Pelicans teammates voice support for Zion even as window for return nears a close
METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - Now that the All-Star break has passed, the Pelicans returned to New Orleans on Thursday to prepare for tonight’s road matchup with the Phoenix Suns as the regular season resumes.
Franchise star Zion Williamson is still away from the team, remaining in Portland to get his body and mind right after a foot injury in the offseason that required surgery is still healing. The window of returning this season is beginning to close with just 23 remaining regular-season games remaining.
While Zion and his camp have been silent during his extended path to recovery, the public’s frustration is at an all-time high with fans wanting to know when they’ll see the young man described as a “generational talent” play basketball once again. Speculation from fans and media in all forms is at its loudest over the situation.
Despite the noise, the Pelicans, two games out of the 10th spot in the West to qualify for the Play-In Tournament, are still trying to win games with the players who are available. They’re also still keeping their young star in their thoughts and are ready to lend their support whenever Zion needs it.
Back at the practice facility on Thursday, head coach Willie Green and players insisted that the distraction of Zion’s absence is not something they will allow to keep his team unfocused from the mission before them.
“We stay focused on what we need to do here. It’s what we’ve had to do all season. That’s to fight through challenges,” Green said. “Whatever they may be. Starting season 1-12 was tough. We stuck together. Worked together. We try to be a great group and work hard and go out and try to win the next game.”
Just before the All-Star break, the Pelicans made a commitment towards winning by trading for C.J. McCollum, who is regarded as one of the elite shooting guards in the league. McCollum echoed Green’s comments on Thursday by asserting that he’s dedicated to winning with players on the floor with him now and foreshadowed that a lineup that included Zion with the current roster will be one that is a force to reckon with.
“You guys are making it a distraction,” McCollum said to media members when asked about Zion’s absence. “It’s part of the game (injuries). He’s a very good player. He’s one of the faces of the league. The guy can move mountains. From a nationally televised standpoint to a ratings standpoint, he’s ‘must-see TV’. He’ll be healthy eventually, and when he is, we’ll welcome him back with open arms and we’ll hit the ground running.”
Reserve center Willy Hernangomez showed support for Zion on social media by sharing a photo of him and Jaxson Hayes picking up Zion from the floor after a fight for the ball during a game.
Zion responded in his Instagram story by re-sharing the photo and saying, “My dawgs for life.”
The Pelicans will start back up tonight in Phoenix and then move on to face the Lakers on Sunday.
They’re back home on March 2 to face Sacramento.
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