For the second time in his 85-game career, Zion Williamson has not been on the court to open the New Orleans Pelicans‘ schedule due to injury, and again the absence is lasting longer than anyone anticipated. After missing the first three months and change of his rookie season with a torn meniscus, Williamson fractured his right foot this past summer and has yet to play this year.
There’s no way not to worry about Zion’s foot-and-knee injury history that dates back to high school, and his size, particularly given the force with which he plays, only heightens that concern. Williamson is listed at 284 pounds, the same weight he was listed at last season, but, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, he is believed to have reached north of 300 pounds as recent as the preseason.
This is not a body-shaming situation. This is a critical component of Williamson’s basketball equation, both near and long term, and the Pelicans, who reportedly tried to alter the way Williamson walked before he played his first NBA game in an effort to mitigate his injury risk, are obviously going to do everything in their power to keep him in the best shape possible. Per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez, that includes changing their “culinary practices” — i.e. keeping the junk out of the cupboard.
The Pelicans have poured resources, time and energy to protect Williamson’s health. They have changed members of the staff and even changed some of their culinary practices in an attempt to support him. They have talked with him about protecting his body from extra hits.
There’s only so much the Pelicans can do. Zion is a grown man who is going to ultimately make his own decisions as it pertains to what and how much he eats.
Let’s be fair about this, he has been sidelined for months recovering from surgery. Conditioning is going to suffer for anyone who has spent more time on the couch than the basketball court.
Also, Zion’s combination of size and athleticism, the very pairing that perhaps makes him susceptible to recurring injuries, is what makes him dominant. It’s a fine line finding, and maintaining, the right balance between good and bad weight. Like Charles Barkley, this will likely be something Zion has to deal with his whole career. It’s just how he’s built. It’s up to him whether his size becomes a strength or weakness as his career progresses.