Pelicans could open season in Toronto without injured No. 1 pick

The start of the Zion Williamson era in New Orleans will have to wait. The Pelicans’ No. 1 overall pick will miss a “period of weeks” to start the regular season because of a right knee injury, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday.

It’s not clear how Williamson suffered the injury, but on Thursday the Pelicans announced that Williamson would miss the team’s final pre-season game Friday in New York because of right knee soreness. He will remain in New Orleans for testing.

According to ESPN, “a severe injury has been ruled out” and “there’s no shortage of confidence” on Williamson making a full recovery, but the team is “clearly treating the injury with an abundance of caution,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Williamson suffered a bruised left knee after only eight minutes of summer league play and was shut down until the team’s training camp. His college coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, told Forbes that the six-foot-seven, 287-pound forward did not seem to be in shape at the time because of other demands on his time, and said that he shouldn’t have played at all.

“I thought really he never should’ve played, just because he’s been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t think he’s in the playing shape or the mental shape to play.”

Williamson averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing 27.3 minutes in the Pelicans’ four pre-season games. He received 68 per cent of the pre-season vote to be named rookie of the year in the NBA’s annual poll of general managers.

The Pelicans open the regular season on Tuesday in Toronto against the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Another NBA rookie — 28-year-old Italian Nicolo Melli — is expected to take Williamson’s spot in the Pelicans’ rotation.

MAKER IN THE MAKING: Makur Maker, one of the most intriguing prospects in the Class of 2020 is reportedly petitioning for inclusion in next summer’s NBA Draft. There’s reason to believe he may have a compelling case, too.

As reported by ESPN NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony, Maker has formally filed paperwork to be included in the 2020 NBA Draft. An undisclosed source told Givony that the NBA Players Association is working with Maker, and his status as a fifth-year high school player is leading to optimism that he will be admitted as a draft prospect.

“The NBA Players Association is helping Makur get eligible,” the undisclosed source told Givony, per ESPN.com. “More than likely he will be in this draft class.”

Maker, a cousin of Detroit Pistons centre Thon Maker and his brother Matur, fits the criteria of being at least one year removed from his initial prospective graduating class. The six-foot-11, Kenyan-born player will turn 19 in November.

Maker is currently projected outside the lottery, but well within the first round of the NBA Draft, per ESPN.

ROSTER MOVES: The Pistons signed forward Tre’Shawn Thurman and waived guard Craig Sword.

Detroit announced the moves Friday, just a day after the team announced it had signed Sword.

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The six-foot-seven Thurman averaged 8.2 points a game last season as a senior at Nevada. He also played three seasons at Nebraska-Omaha. Sword spent the last two seasons with the Erie Bayhawks in the NBA’s G League.

With files from Star wire services

TORONTO STAR

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