Southwest Notes: Zion, Jackson Jr., Ntilikina

Pelicans coach Willie Green said doctors are “encouraged” by the latest imaging on Zion Williamson‘s surgically repaired right foot, but Scott Kushner of believes it’s hard to see Monday’s update as good news. Another round of scans will be conducted in two to three weeks. In the meantime, Williamson is taking part in 5-on-0 workouts, but hasn’t been cleared for full scrimmages.

Kushner compares the delay to Williamson’s rookie season, when he sat out three months after a preseason knee injury that originally had a six- to eight-week projected recovery time. He will miss eight more games if he’s able to return in two weeks, Kushner adds, and 12 if it’s three weeks. It could be much longer if the next set of scans don’t show improvement.

“We need him,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “We are waiting every day for him to come back. It’s going to be a different look with our team. But he’s a huge piece for us. We need him back. Then we’re going to see what everything looks like.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Another Pelicans season is already in danger of slipping away, and William Guillory of The Athletic is calling on the organization to place a greater emphasis on Williamson’s weight and conditioning. Guillory adds that while Williamson’s size may not have caused the two injuries, it played a role in keeping him out so long two years ago and will likely do the same this season. New Orleans has been competitive despite its 1-6 start, Guillory notes, but the club doesn’t have anyone to take over on offense in close games.
  • The Grizzlies need more production from Jaren Jackson Jr. to become legitimate contenders, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Jackson, who received a four-year extension before the season began, is the only Memphis big man who can shoot from the perimeter, but he’s connecting at just a 31.3% rate through seven games. In addition, frequent foul trouble is limiting him to just 26 minutes per night.
  • Frank Ntilikina is making a case for more playing time with the Mavericks, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The former Knicks guard has only been on the court for 61 minutes this season, but Dallas is plus-20 in that time. “When you look at the rotation, you have to play him,” said coach Jason Kidd.
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