Basketball: Zion back in NBA bubble but uncertain for Pelicans opener

Williamson warms up before a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in February 2020. PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - New Orleans Pelicans rookie star Zion Williamson has returned to the NBA's quarantine bubble, but might not be in fit condition for the team's NBA restart opener on Thursday.

Williamson was spending his first full day back in in-room isolation on Saturday (July 25) after leaving the Walt Disney World campus July 16 to deal with a family emergency and returning on Friday night.

Despite testing negative daily while outside the Orlando, Florida, bubble, Williamson will need to complete four days with negative tests to return to team activities.

Because he cannot exercise during the isolation period, there was concern from the Pelicans that while Williamson would be available for Thursday's NBA restart matchup against Utah, the top pick in last year's NBA Draft might not have recovered sufficient game fitness to compete.

The 20-year-old forward, whose NBA debut was delayed until January by a pre-season knee injury, averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19 regular-season games before Covid-19 shut down the 2019-20 NBA campaign on March 11.

The Pelicans are among 22 teams who will play eight seeding contests to complete the regular season and determine the pairings for the NBA playoffs that begin in August.

At 28-36, the Pelicans begin the seeding matches three and a half games behind Memphis for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

After the seeding games, if the eighth-place team is four games or fewer ahead of the ninth-place club, those clubs would have a play-in series to decide the last playoff berth. The team in ninth would need two wins to claim the spot, while the higher seed would need only one win to advance.

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