Pelicans plagued by injuries, setbacks

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

Pelicans injuries
Jada Roth

As we approach the Christmas checkpoint of the NBA season, with over a quarter of the games played, the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in the last spot in the Western Conference, at an 8-21 record. 

This past month, however, has seen the team get a few more wins, as during the last update they were stuck at 2-12. This past month has also given way to the best highlight of the team’s season thus far: Devonte Graham’s game-winning 3-pointer against the Utah Jazz

That being said, last place in the conference is never a good place to be, and with no timetable on Zion Williamson’s return, the future is not looking too promising for this young Pelican’s team. Let’s take a look at some news and updates that have affected the team both positively and negatively over the past month.

More injuries:

An already-thin Pelicans roster got even thinner on Dec. 8, as in their overtime loss to the Nuggets, backup guard Kira Lewis Jr. suffered both a torn ACL and a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee, putting a premature end to his season. A promising second-year player, Lewis was averaging 7.7 points, 47.9% from the field in the past 11 games, with coach Willie Green stating that he is “starting to come into his own.”

So, when is Zion Williamson coming back?:

While the Pelicans struggle to keep their head above water as they await the return of the former first overall pick, Williamson continues to suffer setbacks in his right foot. On Dec. 2, right when Williamson was starting to get cleared for five-on-five activities in practice, soreness in his foot led to the team dialing back his work to more low-impact activities. 

To make things worse, this soreness in his foot seems to be building up. On Dec. 11, a recent medical update from the Pelicans revealed that “Zion Williamson underwent medical imaging which showed a regression in the bone healing of his fifth metatarsal. As a result, the volume and intensity of his training will be reduced for an extended period to help allow for further bone healing.” 

The concerning news does not stop there, as Pelicans beat writer and podcast host Jake Madison revealed in a recent tweet that Williamson has allegedly been both missing rehab workouts as well as falling asleep during film sessions. News reports surrounding Williamson’s weight revealed that along with his health, Williamson’s work ethic will be equally important in determining when his return to the court will take place. 

A change in the rotation for the better: 

To end this mostly negative article in a positive light, the Pelicans have moved from last in the NBA in bench production to 24. Despite still being in the bottom of the third of the league, Willie Green’s adjustments to the Pelicans rotation has proven to help the team. 

Most notably, Jaxson Hayes’s minutes have been replaced by Willy Hernangomez. Hernangomez has been far more efficient with his time on the court on both ends, averaging around 9 points and 7 boards in his last 10 games. With Hernangomez’s boost in play causing Hayes to have more of a reserve will, it will be interesting to see if the Pelicans look to move the former lottery pick elsewhere when the trade deadline comes around.