Zion ‘getting stronger,’ to play when Pels ‘let me’

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, who had surgery for a torn lateral meniscus just prior to the season, feels he’s “getting stronger…

NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, who had surgery on his right knee just prior to the season, on Thursday said he’s “getting stronger” but gave no indication of when he’ll return to action.

“When [the training staff] feels like I’m back to myself, they’ll let me play,” Williamson said as he met with reporters for the first time since the injury. “It’s as simple as that.”

Williamson, who suffered a torn lateral meniscus, was given a timetable of six to eight weeks for his return, which would fall in the first half of December.

The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft said he’s doing his best to keep a positive attitude as rehabs his knee.

“I do feel like I’m getting stronger day by day,” Williamson said Thursday. “The trainers are telling me it’s getting stronger and I can feel the difference day by day.”

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Williamson’s recovery is on schedule and said it would be “very ambitious” to think Williamson could be back at the end of November.

Williamson still can’t pinpoint when he actually suffered the injury. He just remembers feeling soreness in the knee after a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 13. Eight days later, he was having surgery for the first time in his life.

“I wasn’t as nervous,” Williamson said. “I was just like, let’s go in and get it done and let’s start the recovery process.”

Williamson said he was “hurt” at first that he was going to have to delay his NBA debut, but he quickly pointed out that he’s “not out forever.”

“It’s 82 games,” Williamson said. “I’m not even missing half the season.”

Guard Jrue Holiday said the Pelicans, who are off to a 1-6 start, are glad Williamson is back around his teammates at the facility.

Holiday, who missed 107 games in his first three seasons with New Orleans, can also give Williamson some insight on working his way back from injury.

“Be patient,” Holiday said. “He’s 19. Be patient. I’ve been through some injuries myself. I know how frustrating that can be. Maybe even sometimes feeling like you’re on the outside because everybody is playing.

“Knowing him, he wants to be out there helping his teammates up. He feels like he can do a lot for us, which we think he can. Not to have that pressure. We’ll hold it down until he gets back.”

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