METAIRIE, La. — Zion Williamson, the top choice in last summer’s NBA draft, is scheduled to make his regular season debut for the Pelicans on Jan. 22 when New Orleans hosts the San Antonio Spurs, Pelicans basketball operations chief David Griffin said Wednesday.

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

Williamson has missed New Orleans’ first 41 games this season while rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

Griffin indicated that Williamson’s minutes will be closely monitored and likely limited for the time being.

“From a sustaining health standpoint, we’re certainly going to treat him differently,” Griffin said. “It’s not about a hard minutes restriction. It’s about what the bursts need to look like. It’s what you’re measuring him by. When you return to play from a serious injury, it’s not going to be a number. He’s going to play in limited numbers of bursts.”

The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Williamson is relatively heavy for an NBA player, never mind one who moves well and often soars above the rim for the kind of dunks that have made him an internet sensation since high school in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The purpose of his mid-October surgery was to repair cartilage that serves as natural padding in the knee joint. The club has taken a cautious approach to his rehabilitation in hopes of minimizing the possibility of a setback while also trying to improve his overall physical condition.

“You’re addressing everything,” Griffin said. “You’re addressing ankle flexion, and knees and hips and back and everything else.

“What’s happened is his whole kinetic chain is in a whole better position now because of this,” Griffin continued. “It starts with being more flexible. Once you make somebody more flexible, you have to give them the strength to control that flexibility. That’s been a dance, it really has been. But he’s been able to do some things physically that he wasn’t able to do before, particularly because of the amount of flexion he has in his ankles and his hips. He’s in a good place.”

WARRIORS: Guard Damion Lee signed a multiyear contract, as expected, given his time as a two-way player had expired and Golden State wanted to keep him for the remainder of the season.

The team also brought back forward Marquese Chriss as a two-way player after he had been waived to clear room for Lee’s promotion. With Lee coming up, that left an open two-way spot, and Chriss came through waivers and was available.

HAWKS: Forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a car wreck after practice and sustained a concussion and whiplash, according to a statement from the team.

SUNS: Phoenix signed forward Tariq Owens to a two-way contract.

The 6-foot-10, 205-pound Owens, a rookie out of Texas Tech, was playing with the Suns’ NBA G League affiliate – Northern Arizona.

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

76ERS 117, NETS 106: Tobias Harris scored 34 points as Philadelphia won at home.

Ben Simmons had 20 points and 11 assists for the 76ers, who improved to 19-2 at home.


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