Zion Williamson's long-awaited New Orleans Pelicans return has been delayed due to foot soreness, the NBA franchise announced on Thursday.
Williamson is yet to feature for the Pelicans (6-18) in 2021-22 after undergoing surgery on a right foot fracture in the offseason.
The 2019 number one draft pick had been cleared to participate in full team activities, though he was held out from Thursday's session due to soreness.
"It's a part of the process," Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. "When you're dealing with injuries and you ramp up some, there's a possibility you can deal with a little bit of soreness which he's dealing with now.
Williamson is in his third year as a professional, however the 21-year-old has so far seen his hugely promising career hindered by injury.
The power forward did not make his NBA debut until January in the 2019-20 campaign after tearing his meniscus in his rookie preseason, while relatively minor issues limited Williamson to 61 games in 2020-21.
"We're very optimistic in that sense," Green added. "Hopefully the soreness goes away in a few days and he can get back to work."
"It's more important to be patient," Green said. "We're talking about somebody's career. Anytime you're dealing with that aspect of professional sports, that is important to remember.
"That's how we're looking at this. It's being diligent about getting him back on the floor. And that's a part of what we're dealing with right now."
Despite concerns about the forward's durability, Williamson has excelled against NBA opposition.
After 22.5 points per game in his rookie year, he improved to 27.0 last season and will return on a streak of scoring 20 in 15 straight games.
"I think that's the biggest part of us wanting to dial back and re-evaluate where we are," Green said. "We don't want to put our guys on the floor and put their careers at stake or in jeopardy. All of our guys are too important to do something like that."