New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will miss at least the next two weeks, the team announced Wednesday, as he continues his recovery from a strained right hamstring that has sidelined him since early January.
Williamson first injured the hamstring on Jan. 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers and suffered a setback just before the All-Star break, on Feb. 12. That setback prevented Williamson from participating in the game as a starter and pushed his time missed to over two months.
In their statement Wednesday, the Pelicans said Williamson was recently reevaluated and that medical imaging showed his hamstring "continues to heal."
His next examination will take place in approximately two weeks, according to the team.
Asked Wednesday if the Pelicans still believed Williamson would return before the end of the regular season on April 9, coach Willie Green said, "We're definitely optimistic about that."
"He's building his strength," Green said of Williamson's recovery process. "Doing some pool workouts. He can get on AlterG (anti-gravity treadmill). He can get on the floor and spot shoot. He's progressing, but we're extremely mindful of the last time we got to six weeks and he wasn't quite ready. So we want to make sure we're mindful of that."
The Pelicans, at 32-34, are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for ninth place in the Western Conference, but are also just two games back of the fifth-place Golden State Warriors and 1½ games behind the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, who are tied for sixth.
Four of New Orleans' next six games are at home, with the two road games coming against the Houston Rockets, who at 15-50 have the worst record in the West.
Two weeks from now, the anticipated timing of Williamson's next examination, would leave 10 games remaining in the regular season.
The Pelicans could certainly use Williamson's presence. In 29 games this season, Williamson has averaged 26 points and seven rebounds while shooting 60.8% overall.
Without Williamson, the Pelicans have floundered.
New Orleans started the season 23-14, putting them among the top teams in the conference. Since his injury, the Pelicans have gone 9-20. Only the Detroit Pistons, Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have a worse record during that span.
Before Williamson's injury, the Pelicans boasted the eighth-best offensive rating in the league and the sixth-best defensive rating. Both of those ratings have plummeted in his absence. The offense has ranked 26th since Jan. 2, while the defense has been 17th.
Last season, when the Pelicans acquired CJ McCollum just ahead of the trade deadline, the offense ranked 10th in the league after the All-Star break. While Brandon Ingram missed most of January, the Pelicans have been unable to find that same success with mostly the same group this season.
"It starts with our confidence in each other and trusting our work," Green said. "We went through that tough stretch in January and it felt like it just continued. Recognizing where we are, and two, I think the NBA is just better this year. You look at the teams. I haven't seen it like this where so many teams are in it. I love it. Because it makes it more competitive. It's harder. It makes it more of a challenge. We just have to meet those challenges."