New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson will leave the team and the Disney World bubble while he tends to an “urgent family medical matter,” the team announced Thursday.
Williamson, who was raised in South Carolina, will rejoin the team in Orlando at a later, unspecified date. He will need to go through league quarantine protocol again to return to the bubble in a safe manner.
“We fully support Zion’s decision to leave the NBA campus to be with his family,” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said in a statement. “Out of respect for the Williamson family, we have no further comment at this time.”
The league allows for excused absences in instances such as family emergencies or the birth of a child. Upon returning, players are required to spend four days in quarantine “as long as the person tested negative for COVID-19 each day they were outside the campus,” according to ESPN.
The Pelicans are scheduled to play the Utah Jazz on July 30 to open the restarted NBA season. Williamson could theoretically return July 25 and still be able to play some minutes as long as he tests negative throughout the process. The team will likely give their No. 1 draft pick all the time he needs to be with his family.
Williamson, 20, spent quarantine working with his stepfather, Lee Anderson, and told reporters he “felt like I was 5 years old again” going through the process. He played in only 19 games before the hiatus due to a knee injury that kept him from starting the season on time. He emerged from quarantine looking fit and ready to go, an exciting prospect for New Orleans fans, and has been practicing with the team since shortly after it arrived July 8.
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