Zion, authorized to train without restrictions

Zion Williamson was cleared to return to unrestricted game progression, the New Orleans Pelicans announced Thursday afternoon.

The announcement clears the way for Williamson to go into unrestricted offseason workouts this summer as he prepares for the 2022-23 campaign. Williams missed the entire 2021-22 season after he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during offseason workouts last summer.

There was hope that Williamson could have played through the season, but setbacks prevented that from happening. There was an outside chance that he could have returned if the eighth-seeded Pelicans advanced in the playoffs, but the team fell in six games to the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round.

The update comes after the Pelicans said recent footage showed “continuous improvement” in Williamson’s right foot. Zion just completed his third season in the NBA, but has only played 85 games in those three years due to injuries. He played 24 during his rookie year after his debut was delayed by a torn meniscus in his right knee.

This summer, Williams is eligible to sign a five-year, $186 million rookie-max extension with New Orleans. When asked about the extension on April 29 with the Pelicans in exit interviews, Williamson said, “Of course. I couldn’t sign him fast enough.”

Williamson said the 2021-22 season was a “difficult year” due to the injury that caused him to take time to rehab away from the team, in Portland. However, once he returned to the team in March, he realized the Pelicans were building something.

“Being real, it sucks to watch from the bench,” Williamson said. “I just want to be there. Just seeing the potential. We’ve got a lot of great pieces. I’m excited to get out there with those guys.”

Williamson progressed to playing full-court 5-on-5 with Pelicans staff and bench players in April, but was never able to get over the final hurdle to return to the court for official games.

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Zion, authorized to train without restrictions