If Pelicans star Zion Williamson is going to return to action before the postseason begins, it will have to happen during the final week of the regular season. The team announced today that Williamson has been cleared to resume on-court activities, but will be out at least two more weeks before being reevaluated (Twitter link).
Williamson has been sidelined since January 2 due to a right hamstring strain, having suffered a setback during his rehab process. While the fact that he’s doing on-court work is a positive sign, two weeks from today would be April 5 and the regular season ends on April 9. So even if he gets the OK to return when he’s reevaluated in two weeks, the former No. 1 pick won’t be able to play in more than two or three games.
The Pelicans will wrap up their season with home games vs. Memphis (April 5) and New York (April 7), followed by a road contest in Minnesota (April 9). At 35-37, New Orleans currently holds the No. 12 spot in the Western Conference, but is only a single game back of the seventh-seeded Thunder. Those final three games could determine whether or not the Pels make the play-in tournament.
In addition to being without Williamson for at least two more weeks, the Pelicans will also continue to have another important rotation player unavailable during that time. According to the team, guard Jose Alvarado will be reevaluated in about two or three weeks.
Alvarado has been on the shelf since February 27 due to a stress reaction in his right tibia. According to today’s announcement, he has shown “incremental improvement.” However, it sounds like he may be a long shot to return before the regular season wraps up.
If the Pelicans can earn a playoff spot, either via the play-in tournament or by finishing as a top-six seed in the regular season, there would be a clearer path for both Williamson and Alvarado to potentially return, since the first round will run into late April. The club has had an inconsistent second half though, so even securing a play-in berth could be an uphill battle at this point.