Pelicans say Zion Williamson's weight not cause of knee injury

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Wilbon, Kornheiser question Zion's durability (1:31)

Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser express their concern for the long-term health of Zion Williamson as he will miss 6-8 weeks of the season following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. (1:31)

TORONTO -- The New Orleans Pelicans aren't sure when Zion Williamson hurt the meniscus in his right knee. But one thing the team is sure of? Williamson's 284-pound frame wasn't the cause.

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon that he was confident Williamson's weight had nothing to do with the torn meniscus that will keep the No. 1 pick out for the next six to eight weeks.

"The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is asinine," Griffin said of Williamson. "He wasn't in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah. That's not what it is. He's just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective."

Griffin added that the 6-foot-7 Williamson is a "freak of nature" and that he "is in elite condition and stays in elite condition."

The Pelicans' training staff, led by Aaron Nelson, is still trying to learn more about Williamson's body and how the team can help him.

"He can be 274 pounds with 8.5% body fat and he can be 280 pounds with 9% body fat," Griffin said. "As we have gone through the process for our medical team, learning how to keep him lean and give him the core strength and stability and control he needs to handle all that torque he generates, typically that means you are going to do things to strengthen those areas.

"In this case, he gains muscle mass so fast and gains weight so fast, no one has ever dealt with anybody like him. He's 19 and it's going to be a learning experience for all of us."

Griffin likened Williamson to another former No. 1 pick who dealt with injuries in his career.

"Less weight, less torque is a theory," Griffin said. "But you look at a player like Blake Griffin who generated enormous torque and had the issues he had in his career. It took a while for him to find stasis in his body and we think that could be the same with Zion."

David Griffin mentioned that while Williamson will be out six to eight weeks, he expects him to attempt to come back sooner.

"Sometimes our job is to protect guys from themselves," Griffin said. "So we'll see how he goes through the process, but all the indications are very positive."

Griffin added that the team is "extremely optimistic" that Williamson will have a full recovery and return to being the player he was in the preseason when he averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds on 71.4% shooting in four games.

The timeline of when the injury occurred is still unclear. Williamson didn't let the Pelicans know of any discomfort until the team's first practice after playing against San Antonio on Oct. 13, which would have been two days later. As a result, the Pelicans held him out of the live portion of practice the following day before getting an MRI done on the 17th.

It was an uncommon situation, though, because Williamson never really reported any pain in the knee.

"He didn't have any swelling," Griffin said. "As far as when it happened, nobody really knows because he didn't have any symptoms. It's a fascinating thing."

With Williamson out of the lineup, the Pelicans will turn to Brandon Ingram as the starting power forward while going with a three-guard look of Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick and Jrue Holiday to start next to Derrick Favors.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said rebounding could be an issue, but he expects Ball and Holiday to help in that regard. He added that the Pelicans will rely on their depth while Williamson is out.

"One of the things that we did is add a lot of depth to our team," Gentry said. "We have to use that.

"The big thing for us is it's a marathon, not a sprint. Our whole goal is just to get better. That's what we've done."

Despite Williamson's injury, Griffin said he expects the team to compete in the early part of the season.

"Every team is at the mercy of injuries to a huge degree," Griffin said. "You're only as good as your health quite often. We have so much depth across the roster and so much versatility. We're going to be able to have guys to pick up and carry the load.

"No one is looking at this as we're not going to win games. We have full expectation that we're supposed to figure it out and we will."