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Zion Williamson expected to be available against Utah Jazz when NBA resumes after leaving Orlando bubble

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In this March 6, 2020, file photo, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson walks onto the court during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza, File)


New Orleans Pelicans rookie phenom Zion Williamson is primed to be available to play next Thursday when the NBA restart officially tips off as his Pelicans take on the Utah Jazz in Orlando.

Williamson had left the NBA’s “bubble” at Disney World on July 16 to attend to what the Pelicans called an “urgent family medical matter,” but returned on Friday night. There was some question as to how long the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft would have to quarantine upon return, but the team said he tested negative for the novel coronavirus every day while gone, and the NBA confirmed on Saturday that under league protocol, he has to quarantine for four days.

That means he should get out of quarantine sometime next Tuesday. New Orleans and Utah are set to open the restart at 4:30 p.m. MT on Thursday. Had Williamson not undergone daily testing while away, he would have had to remain in quarantine upon return for at least 10 days and up to 14, according to NBA protocol.

“My family and I appreciate the love and respect that everyone showed us while we dealt with a private family matter,” Williamson said in a statement the Pelicans released on Friday night. “I’m excited to rejoin my team in Orlando and look forward to getting back on the court with my teammates after quarantine.”

ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweeted Saturday that New Orleans’ practice on Tuesday will be late enough in the day (teams are assigned time slots) that Williamson will be able to practice with the team both that day and Wednesday before Thursday’s opener, of course assuming he continues to test negative for the coronavirus.

“The most important thing is I hope everything went OK with him,” Williamson’s teammate and former Jazz big man Derrick Favors said on Saturday morning, according to a story on the Pelicans’ team website. “He went away for personal reasons. I know everybody is excited to have him back. He’s excited to be back. We’re just happy he was able to come back and be in a good place mentally and physically.”

Williamson was limited to 19 games before the NBA shut down in March because of injury, but in those games, he averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest.