The NBA’s plan for creating a bubble has been dissected as the league has attempted to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay. But reality exists outside the bubble, and Zion Williamson was forced to leave the campus Thursday to tend to a family medical emergency.
The New Orleans Pelicans issued a statement explaining that Williamson departed Orlando to attend to an urgent family medical matter. The team said that Williamson intends to rejoin the team at a later date for the NBA season restart.
“We fully support Zion’s decision to leave the NBA campus to be with his family,” said Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. “Out of respect for the Williamson family, we will have no further comment at this time.”
The teams are scheduled to begin exhibition games July 22 with the eight-game seeding schedule starting July 30. Whenever Williamson can return he will have to quarantine for at least four days — and it could be longer depending on the testing he is able to undergo and the results while he is out of the bubble. Players are subject to enhanced testing upon returning — the deeper nasal swabs rather than the less intrusive method being used for daily testing. A quarantine could be as long as 10 days but could reduce to four if Williamson is able to do daily testing while away from the team and has all negative tests.
While the league would not admit that his presence played a factor, it was believed by league sources that getting Williamson into the return played a part in opting for 22 teams to be brought into the bubble rather than just the 16 that were in playoff position when the season was suspended on March 11. The Pelicans trail the Memphis Grizzlies by three games in a battle for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
While the Pelicans did have players test positive for the virus before heading to Orlando last week, the team did not disclose the names of those players.
Williamson played just 19 games for the Pelicans this season after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He underwent knee surgery that sidelined him for the first 44 games of the season.