Pelicans star Zion Williamson thinks it’s ‘realistic’ he can return from hamstring injury during playoffs

The Pelicans narrowly lost to the Thunder without Zion Williamson in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series Sunday

Though he’s been sidelined again due to an injury, Zion Williamson doesn’t think he’ll be out for long.

Williamson, who went down with a hamstring injury in their first play-in tournament game last week, thinks it's “realistic” he can return to the court sooner rather than later.

"That is absolutely realistic," he said, via ESPN's Andrew Lopez. "But like I said, I got to pass the tests and get back to baseline, and hopefully I'll be out there."

Williamson awkwardly injured his hamstring late in their play-in tournament loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last week. Williamson was in the midst of one of the best games of his career when he went down, too. He had 40 points and 11 rebounds when he left the game with about three minutes left, and had led the New Orleans Pelicans back from an 18-point deficit to give them a chance at the win.

Williamson was extremely frustrated as he walked to the locker room at the Smoothie King Center.

The Pelicans later announced that he had sustained a hamstring strain, and that he’d be evaluated again in about two weeks.

"[It was] super demoralizing at first, can't lie," Williamson said. "The season had been going so well, so for that to happen, it definitely was demoralizing. But I took a day or two to get past that, and now I'm back on what I've been saying all year, stacking my days and getting back on the court."

Zion Williamson went down with a hamstring injury in their first play-in tournament game last week, and he hasn't played since.
Zion Williamson went down with a hamstring injury in the Pelicans' first play-in tournament game last week, and he hasn't played since. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Williamson has struggled repeatedly with injuries throughout his career — he’s played in just 184 of a possible 410 regular-season games over his five seasons in the league — but he seemed back to normal during the 2023-24 campaign. He averaged 22.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, shot 57% from the field and played in a career-high 70 games during the regular season. He’s reportedly lost 25 pounds since December, too.

While it’s not ideal, Williamson said this injury was “bittersweet.” Compared to previous hamstring injuries he’s had, like one that knocked him out last season, this one isn’t anywhere near as severe.

"I knew something happened and it didn't feel nothing like how it did on the right side [last time]," he said. "The right side was definitely sharper pain. This one didn't really feel like that. It just felt like, nah, something's off right now."

Though they were without Williamson, the Pelicans nearly pulled off a huge upset in Game 1 on Sunday. The top-seeded Thunder edged out a 94-92 win in Oklahoma City behind a 28-point performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

If Williamson is sidelined for just two weeks like the Pelicans initially hoped, he could in theory return for Game 5 of their series with the Thunder if it goes that long. Game 5 is scheduled for exactly two weeks after the team’s initial announcement, which may be pushing it. If the Pelicans can make it out of the first round, though, Williamson would have much more time to recover and realistically make his return without risking anything.

Until then, the Pelicans will have to find a way to keep up with the Thunder without him.