Pelicans VP David Griffin says Zion Williamson was not cleared to play

Published: Apr. 15, 2023 at 8:01 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Less than 48 hours after the Pelicans’ season was ended by a home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin provided more clarity Friday (April 14) on star forward Zion Williamson’s progress.

Williamson suffered a right hamstring strain on Jan. 2 and was sidelined for the rest of the season, playing in only 29 of 82 games.

Williamson said last Tuesday he felt physically fine. He added he would return to the court when he felt like himself again. He was not available for the play-in tournament game against the Thunder.

“He came up here the other day and told you all, ‘Physically I’m fine,’” Griffin explained. “Nobody followed up on what that means. Physically fine means, ‘I’m not currently injured.’ He wasn’t physically cleared to play basketball.”

Griffin emphasized Friday that Williamson didn’t choose not to play. He simply was not medically cleared to play.

“He makes the one misstatement about, ‘Physically, I’m fine,’” Griffin said. “The reality is like, what’s the thing? So, had I been here, I would have clarified it immediately. So the thing is, when you’re going through a rehab process and a player does not report ‘I’m very comfortable and confident in this movement,’ you don’t go to the next movement.”

Griffin added that Williamson was only playing one-on-none in practice.

“He went up and windmill dunked pregame,” Griffin says. “Well that’s not the skillset that makes you capable of playing skilled five-on-five basketball. He was never cleared to play five-on-five basketball.”

Williamson missed all of last season due to injury, and only played in 29 of the 83 total games this season.

When asked what needed to change to make sure Williamson was more available moving forward, Griffin put the responsibility on both Williamson and the staff.

“I think a big part of it is on him,” Griffin said. “I think there’s a lot he can do better. I think he would tell you that. He certainly owned up to that. And i think we need to do a better job of maybe examining the whole situation top to bottom a little bit better.

“I heard people say, ‘What you’re doing is not working.’ Well, we’re aware of that at the time it happens. We’re not intentionally not doing the right things. I think finding a way to put him in the best position to succeed is important. And I think his participation in that is a big part of it as well.”

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