Zion lands in league protocols, won’t face Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols and will not play Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson has been a driving force this season for the Pelicans, who are 18-12 and in third place in the Western Conference. He’s averaging 25.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 60.3% from the field.

The fourth-year pro has played in 25 of 30 games this season. He missed two games in late October with a lower back/right hip contusion and three in mid-November because of a right foot contusion.

New Orleans hosts San Antonio on Thursday night and will travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Friday.

Along with Williamson, the Pelicans also will be without forward Brandon Ingram for at least two more games, coach Willie Green said earlier Wednesday. Ingram has been out since Nov. 25 after suffering a left big toe contusion against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Williamson has stepped up his game in Ingram’s absence. In the 11 games Ingram has missed, Williamson’s averages jumped to 28.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game while shooting 63.5% overall. New Orleans is 7-4 in that stretch, although it did win the first seven before losing four in a row.

The Pelicans have struggled to have their big three of Williamson, Ingram and CJ McCollum together for long stretches this season. Those three have been in the starting lineup together only 10 times this season. In 172 minutes over those 10 games, the Pelicans are averaging 120.9 points per 100 possessions when those three share the court.

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