The New Orleans Pelicans have tied the Phoenix Suns at 1-1, and the reports of Zion Williamson's desire to play are lingering. Still, any decision will involve the voices from several levels within the organization.
First, Zion will need to be fully cleared by all the medical professionals. Thankfully, he has passed every test and is progressing to 5-on-5 sessions - but not against the starters.
Once the medical hurdles set by the doctors are cleared, the front office will gather with Williamson and Willie Green to decide the next course of action. It's an example of how the team's undeniable family atmosphere. The hope inside the Pelicans is that Williamson returns soon, but they may run out of time.
Speculation from the leaked reports, Zion's highlight dunk videos, and Lee Anderson's visit to the Jordy Culotta Show lead us to believe Williamson wants to immediately play basketball. He would probably not be doing dunks during warmups without being cleared to some degree by both his and the team's doctors.
But being healthy enough to join a fun pickup game of hoops does not mean one is ready to hold up to even five minutes of playoff basketball. Assuming Williamson gets the green light to play, he would join a starting rotation of new faces in CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, and Jonas Valanciunas - all have never played a game with Zion. It's something to consider from both player development and coaching standpoint.
How would Williamson's return affect McCollum and Ingram's playoff growth? How would it change Green's game plans? How intense would the Suns attack Williamson at both ends of the court? Williamson would be inviting extra scrutiny and health risks by stepping into unchartered waters.
Furthermore, many are requesting the Pelicans' to change its approach and accommodate the player. However, no matter how talented, New Orleans cannot overlook the potential medical issues and complications should he re-injure his foot.
The team knows it invites certain outside narratives and pressures to form, but that is no bother. Since Zion returned from rehabbing in Oregon, the stability of the team's chemistry should the Pelicans incorporate Williamson into the lineup has been discussed. He might not hit any other milestones until next season, and it would still be considered a relationship win going into the offseason.
The goal of the physicians, front-office personnel, coaching staff, and Williamson is to make the best decisions for Zion and the team. His return may have to wait, but it's evident that the team and fanbase desire the best Zion. Willie Green led this roster back from a 1-12 start, sparking the rejuvenation of the fanbase.
2021-22 season's successes have solidified the future. The foundation of a championship contender awaits. No rash moves will be made that would crack that foundation.