Watch Now: Zion Still Away From The Bubble (1:25)

Zion Williamson has returned to the Disney bubble, the New Orleans Pelicans announced Friday. The rookie star left Orlando to deal with a family situation but was tested for the coronavirus daily while he was away. He never tested positive. Therefore, he will only need to quarantine for four days before becoming eligible to return to the floor. Assuming the Pelicans are satisfied with his conditioning, that would make him available for the first game of the restarted season when New Orleans takes on the Utah Jazz on Thursday. 

The Pelicans spent most of the season in the Western Conference cellar. However, once Williamson returned from the knee injury that kept him out for most of his rookie year, they surged back into contention for a playoff spot. Their starting lineup with Williamson in the fold has destroyed opponents by 26.3 points per 100 possessions, and that has been one of the catalysts behind New Orleans’ improvement before the season was suspended.

They are now one of several teams battling the Memphis Grizzlies and their own star rookie, Ja Morant, for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. New Orleans is currently 3.5 games behind Memphis, but if the No. 9 seed finishes within four games of the No. 8 seed after the eight seeding games at Disney, that would trigger a play-in situation where that No. 9 seed would make the playoffs if it beats No. 8 twice in a row. 

New Orleans had the NBA‘s easiest remaining schedule before the season paused, and while the bubble couldn’t quite recreate the road that would have been in front of them, they do have the easiest schedule of the teams in Orlando. The odds aren’t in their favor considering where they’re starting, but with Zion back in the fold and not necessarily missing games, the Pelicans have a real chance to reach the postseason.