Zion Williamson to make NBA debut

FIRST GAME: Injured Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans works out before their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Jan. 4 in Sacramento, Calif. Williamson is expected to make his pro debut against the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 22. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Tribune News Service

Zion Williamson was selected by New Orleans as the top overall pick in the NBA draft 209 days ago.

The Pelicans have played 41 games, half the regular season, all without their prized rookie.

Fans are going to have to wait seven more days and the team will have to play three more games, but at least now we know when Williamson is expected to make his long-awaited NBA debut following knee surgery in October.

David Griffin, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations, told reporters Wednesday that the team anticipates Williamson being ready to play Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs at Smoothie King Center.

“Everything’s moving in the right direction,” Griffin said. “I really believe very strongly he is a radically improved physical version of himself in way that frankly we took the extra time to ensure.”

Griffin said the Pelicans want Williamson to practice with the team two more times before playing in a game.

Williamson missed five games for Duke after spraining his right knee in February but returned at full strength, averaging 26 points and 8.5 rebounds on 61.6% shooting in four NCAA Tournament games.

He averaged 23.3 points on 71.4% shooting in four preseason games with the Pelicans, then sat out the preseason finale because of an injury to the same knee.

On Oct. 21, one day before the start of the NBA season, Williamson underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

The Pelicans are 15-26 but have won nine of their last 13 games to pull within four games of a Western Conference playoff spot.

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