(via The New York Times)

Zion Williamson has already emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Despite having played in just 22 games this season, he is next in line to be the face of basketball.

But he has been lacking in playing time since the Orlando restart began and many are wondering why. Considering Zion’s size and weight, many assume the Pelicans are just being overprotective of their biggest star… but ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith suggested on First Take that something more may be going on.

“Something’s fishy here. And I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days, Max. When you look at a guy like Zion Williamson, — got hurt in High School, got hurt in college, got hurt in summer league, comes back after a half-month layoff, seemed a bit gimpy.

Something doesn’t seem right and I’m concerned about him moving forward in terms of him being a bit injury prone. But in the same breath, he’s 20.”

It sounds as if Stephen A. is suggesting that there could be more to this Zion story than we know. Could he still be dealing with some kind of lingering injury? Is his body just not feeling good? Is there more to his injury history than has been revealed?

It’s certainly questionable that the Pelicans have been so protective of him, especially considering he’s just 20-years-old.

Ready or not, the kid has to play sometime.

Regardless, whatever is going on with Zion, the Pelicans don’t seem keen on taking any chances with him. You can expect them to remain cautious with him moving forward.