Pelicans' Zion Williamson won't play back-to-backs upon return

NEW ORLEANS -- When Zion Williamson finally does take the floor for his season debut with the New Orleans Pelicans, expect the team to be mindful of the workload for this year's No. 1 overall pick.

David Griffin, the Pelicans' vice president of basketball operations, said Williamson's return to the floor will be heavily monitored.

"He very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially," Griffin said on the team's television broadcast. "There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he's certainly going to be playing, and we're trying to win basketball games.

"And quite frankly, we've done a horrible job of that."

Last Monday marked the six-week mark from Williamson's surgery on a meniscus injury he suffered in the preseason. The Pelicans initially put a timetable of six to eight weeks on Williamson's return, and a source told ESPN that the No. 1 overall pick has returned to doing some on-court work, including light walk-throughs with the team and spot shooting.

The Pelicans entered Thursday night's matchup against the Phoenix Suns on a six-game losing streak. Despite the team's 6-15 overall record, Griffin expressed optimism over his team's long-term progress.

"Where we may be failing in terms of the short term, I'm very confident that we're succeeding over the breadth of what we're trying to do, which is build a sustainable winner," Griffin said. "And we're well on our way to that, despite the current record."

Williamson averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in the preseason while shooting 71.4% from the field. He was injured in the Pelicans' second-to-last preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs and had surgery on his knee eight days after that on Oct. 21, the day before New Orleans opened the regular season.