Zion Williamson's long-awaited NBA debut is scheduled for Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs.
That home game was revealed as the expected unveiling of the No. 1 overall draft pick on Wednesday by New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin.
Williamson has missed nearly three months after undergoing surgery on his right knee just prior to the start of the season. He had the lateral meniscus repaired on Oct. 21.
"He's getting to the point where we actually believe he's as ready as he thinks he is so it's moving in the right direction," Griffin said during a media session.
Griffin said Williamson won't play in back-to-back games but won't be on a minutes restriction.
"It's not about a hard number," Griffin said of the minutes. "When you return to play from a serious injury, it's about the burst. He's going to play in a limited number of bursts and it's subjective and you are going to judge what he looks like in each burst."
Griffin said the plan is to make sure Williamson goes through an intense practice between now and the return date. The hope is that Williamson practices with the team on both Friday and Sunday.
Williamson has been itching to get on the court as the initial prediction was that he would be sidelined for six to eight weeks.
"While he would have liked to have played already, he was very grateful we were going to put a target on it because I don't think he gets asked anything other than 'when are you going to play?'" Griffin said.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said it will take time to figure out where Williamson is physically after the inactivity and which other four players best fit with him on the court.
But knowing he will have Williamson soon was a pleasing development.
"Just to have a target date is a good thing and we'll go from there," Gentry said in his media session.
Expectations are high for the former Duke star but Gentry thinks keeping things in perspective is a must.
"Obviously, he's an explosive guy. That's pretty evident when he's practicing. The big thing to me is being in basketball shape and the feel for the game. He has a great feel for the game.
"We have to keep in mind he hasn't played in a NBA game. He's played in preseason games, which doesn't count really. When he walks out there, that will be the first time he's played."
Williamson shot 71.4 percent while averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in four preseason games.
The Pelicans are 15-26 at the midway point of their schedule. They host the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
--Field Level Media