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When could Zion Williamson return from health and safety protocols?

The Pelicans will also be without Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr against the Spurs

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will be without their two biggest guns in Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols) and Brandon Ingram (left great toe contusion) against the San Antonio Spurs, as well as Larry Nance Jr. (right Achilles soreness), their most consistent reserve.

Ingram’s absence tonight will mark his 12th straight and he’s already been ruled out for tomorrow’s contest in OKC against the Thunder. His return is very much up in the air as Williamson’s, who showed symptoms when he arrived at Wednesday’s practice.

“He was not feeling up to his normal self,” Willie Green said in pregame. “So he was there for a minute and he left after that.”

Under the current NBA health and safety protocols, players can return relatively quickly provided they meet several bench marks. If they’re vaccinated (Williamson and rest of the locker room has checked that box), a player must show he’s asymptomatic and produce back-to-back tests with cycle threshold (CT) values of 30 or above.

CT levels indicate how much virus an infected person harbors, so the higher the number, the less contagious a person is believed to be.

Williamson could become asymptomatic rapidly; however, he would also have to produce back-to-back negative tests over the span of two days. Also, do not forget that he may require a reconditioning plan, similar to CJ McCollum after he overcame his bout with COVID.

That seems like a tall order for the Pelicans home game against the Pacers the day after Christmas, but the odds feel more realistic for the Dec. 28 game versus the Timberwolves.

For now, hope that all his symptoms abate as quickly as possible to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

The Spurs will be without Keldon Johnson, who is dealing with hamstring tightness.

Although they sit one game out of the Western Conference cellar, the Spurs have won four of their last six games so the Pelicans will have to play well in order to snap their four-game losing streak.

Let’s Geaux!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (18-12) vs San Antonio Spurs (10-20)

When: December 22, 2022, 7:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.