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With Zion’s latest injury setback, fair to ponder Pelicans’ future around Ingram, Williamson

Health is paramount and New Orleans’ star duo has never enjoyed enough of it

New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks

Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson have appeared in 93 out of a possible 283 regular season games together and that figure isn’t going to increase anytime soon. That’s not only worrisome for present New Orleans Pelicans playoff aspirations, one can’t help but ponder the bigger picture.

Williamson, who originally suffered a hamstring strain against the 76ers on Jan. 2, had a setback in his recovery process last week. He re-aggravated the injury while doing work on the court and is expected to miss multiple weeks beyond the All-Star break. That’s a bitter pill to swallow because he was nearing a return after having progressed to 3-on-3 work.

“Unfortunately, this is an injury that has a very high instance of recurrence,” David Griffin said on Sunday. “It’s nothing he did wrong to bring this about. He was very diligent in his process and it is what it is unfortunately. It’s an injury that is tricky and hard to navigate. I think you’ve seen other players around the league have those same re-incidents.”

Devin Booker has been severely hampered by multiple hamstring or groin issues this season. Paul George has missed time on and off for the same injury. James Harden was plagued with hamstring concerns in the previous two seasons. And who can forget Chris Paul pulling his right hamstring in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in 2018?

A number of NBA stars have dealt with various hamstring strains recently and a lot of them also went on to suffer some sort of setback. So Griffin was right to call Williamson’s situation far from unique. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the Pelicans have taken the court far more often with one or both stars unavailable than rolling at full strength since 2019.

Season Games played Games missed % of games missed
Brandon Ingram 2019-20 62 10 13.9%
Brandon Ingram 2020-21 61 11 15.3%
Brandon Ingram 2021-22 55 27 32.9%
Brandon Ingram 2022-23 22 35 61.4%
Zion Williamson 2019-20 24 48 66.7%
Zion Williamson 2020-21 61 11 15.3%
Zion Williamson 2021-22 0 82 100%
Zion Williamson 2022-23 29 28 49.1%

The trends do not bode well.

Missed games played a major hand in the break up of the Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant trio in Brooklyn as they only appeared in 16 games together across 1.5 seasons.

The Clippers have reached just one conference finals in four years because Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can’t consistently stay on the court. Many are wondering whether it’s time for Los Angeles to move on from one or both players.

Sandwiched in between the Warriors’ 2022 championship appear to be several very mediocre campaigns. Klay Thompson didn’t play at all during the 2020-21 season. While he returned last season, he hasn’t shown much of the form of old outside of last month. Plus, Stephen Curry has missed 18 games and may not return until next month.

Injuries are a fact of NBA life.

If your favorite team has endured less than 100 missed games due to either injury or health protocols, celebrate the rare event — or go ahead and light the beam. If your team sits on the other side of the spectrum, good luck.

No, seriously. Williamson’s latest injury is attributed to bad luck, something New Orleans fans are all too familiar with.

Also, a team’s depth can only weather a storm for so long, regardless of how strong the unit may be.

One can’t help but wonder how many more opportunities the star duo of Ingram and Williamson should be granted given the poor track record of games played together.

It’s true that there’s no need to panic yet. They’re both still young and each has multiple years remaining on their contract. However, it’s fair for the organization to start exploring other options — say hiring new medical/health personnel, examining other training techniques or looking at trades that would improve durability — because maintaining the status quo and continuing to rely on hope feels like a foolhardy plan.

There’s nothing more paramount in the league than health. We’re constantly reminded of that fact when it comes to the Pelicans unfortunately.

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.