Zion Williamson Exits NBA’s Orlando Bubble Potentially Rendering 22-Team Format Pointless

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The NBA’s newest superstar,. and massive ticket and media draw, Zion Williamson, has departed from the NBA’s Orlando bubble to deal with an urgent family matter. The Pelicans and the NBA confirmed Williamson’s departure in announcements on Thursday morning.

Obviously the most important thing here is the health and well being of the Williamson family and we wish them all well. If and when Zion Williamson wants to return to the bubble, he will face the NBA’s mandatory quarantine before being allowed to re-enter. If Zion is tested on a daily basis for the entire time he is outside the bubble he would only be subject to a two-to-four day quarantine. If he’s not tested daily, he will have to quarantine for a full week at a minimum and likely 10 days.


Zion Williamson was drafted first overall by the Pelicans but missed the season’s first 44 games. The team floundered during his recovery from a torn meniscus suffered just before the season began. In his 19-game return to the NBA prior to the league shutting down due to COVID-19, Zion was a destructive force on the basketball court.

Averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, Zion rallied the Pelicans and their prospects of making the NBA playoffs began to improve. The Pelicans had climbed to within 3 1/2 games of the final playoff spot and were making a big push when life went on pause. Giving the young superstar’s team a shot at getting into the playoffs was a major priority for the NBA in planning the league’s restart.

The entire reason for the 22-team format with “regular season” games instead of launching directly into the 16-team tournament was to give Zion Williamson a chance to get in and extend his run, drawing those precious clicks and ratings. Engineering the entire system around one player was probably a poor idea to start, no matter the drawing power of that player. Williamson’s departure could render the league’s entire plan pointless; if he’s not able to make it back in time to play enough, or any, games in the manufactured stretch run.

The Pelicans are scheduled to play the first game of the Orlando re-start on July 30th when they take on the Jazz. With just two weeks to spare, it’s going to be a race against time to get Zion Williamson back in the lineup, if he’s even ready to play following his family emergency.

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