Zion Williamson practices in full, signaling the imminent return of the NBA's No. 1 pick

Ben Rohrbach

New Orleans Pelicans rookie sensation Zion Williamson practiced in full for the first time since a torn right lateral meniscus sidelined the No. 1 pick in October, according to The Athletic’s Will Guillory.

Williamson has yet to make his NBA regular-season debut, and it appears we will have to wait a little longer. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry would not peg a targeted return date, although he did rule Williamson out for this coming weekend’s back-to-back road set against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. The Pelicans will next host the Utah Jazz on Monday.

This is encouraging news after Williamson’s initial recovery timeline of six to eight weeks recently came and went with news that the 6-foot-6, 285-pound athletic marvel was still weeks away from returning.

Pelicans general manager David Griffin warned early in December not to expect Williamson to be the “cavalry” the team needed to turn its season around, and that the 19-year-old’s minutes would need to be load managed once he does return. Gentry continued preaching patience to reporters on Thursday.

Yet, the current four-game winning streak has New Orleans four games behind the eighth-seeded San Antonio Spurs, not all that far from a pack of five other sub-.500 teams chasing the West’s final playoff spot. An injection of Williamson into a team that features rising star Brandon Ingram, former All-Star Jrue Holiday and a blend of veteran and young talent will no doubt raise expectations in New Orleans.

In four preseason games prior to being diagnosed with the knee injury, Williamson averaged 23.3 points on 71.4 percent shooting, along with 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in only 27.2 minutes. He entered the draft this past June as the most hyped top pick since LeBron James in 2003.

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is nearing a return. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is nearing a return. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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