Zion had two rehab periods this year – first, the Pelicans took him off the roster for months to properly rehab his knee and learn his body mechanics to ensure a long, healthy career. Then COVID-19 happened, and Zion got an offseason’s worth of time to continue working on his body. Did he get any better?
According to Dr. Brian Sutterer, the answer is very concerning “No.” You may remember Dr. Sutterer from his viral videos analyzing Zion’s injury while at Duke and explaining the structural issues he has by analyzing Zion’s walk, how he jumps and lands. After Zion’s first few appearances in the bubble, Dr. Sutterer is not optimistic.
“If you go watch his Duke highlights compared to now, the difference is profound. In my opinion, his athleticism and conditioning have regressed substantially. He’s less explosive, less conditioned, slower on defense, has already had a portion of his meniscus removed from his knee after an injury, and he’s still under close monitoring from the medical staff.”Dr. Brian Sutterer, The Athletic
The Pelicans explained Zions’s minutes limit with his absence from training camp. David Griffin said Zion missed three days of “ramp-up time,” and they are accounting that into his minutes restrictions. While nothing can replace 5-on-5 basketball, what Dr. Sutterer is talking about is systemic. Zion may not have had the same amount of training camp as his team did, but he did have months to prepare his body for NBA basketball, primarily to address the long-term concerns playing with so much weight brings.
“I feel like nobody really wants to call it like we all see it. He’s trying to reverse a career trajectory that by the Pelicans’ own admission is worrisome as evidenced by his ‘reprogramming’ and scrutinized minutes. He had four months to start making positive strides, and to me, he’s regressed more. When will he finally start to reverse course? Will it be in time before more substantial fitness concerns and injuries limit him and threaten his career? Instead of outpacing these risks, I’m worried that Zion is losing the race.”Dr. Brian Sutterer, The Athletic
Dr. Sutterer acknowledges he is only starting his medial career (he is 31 years old) and that the Pelicans have a lot more insight into Zion’s recovery and ‘‘reprogramming.’’ But he is not the only one to notice there doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress from the beginning of the season. It may sound crazy right now, but if such issues continue, we may redraft the 2019 class, and Ja Morant is the no brainer no.1 pick.
Let’s hope we don’t have to say one of the worst sentences about such an exceptional talent. “If only he could’ve stayed on the court.”