New Orleans Pelicans fans aren’t happy with the restrictions being placed on Zion Williamson as he eases into NBA action for the first time, but coach Alvin Gentry won’t be changing his mind because of fan protests.
Williamson played 21 minutes in Friday night’s game, scoring 15 points and adding six rebounds, but sat on the bench at the end of it as the Pelicans lost to Denver. That prompted “we want Zion” chants from the home crowd in New Orleans, but Gentry was unmoved.
“It’s the way we’ve decided, it’s best for him right now and that’s what we’re going to stick to,” Gentry said, via Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “I know everybody gets real excited, and I hear every night that I’m the dumbest coach in the world about why would I take the guy out in the game of the last 5 minutes or 6 minutes? So I’ll live with that knowing that we’re doing the right thing.”
Williamson’s debut was incredibly exciting and promising, and it’s easy to understand why fans want to see more. However, he had knee surgery in October, and the last thing the Pelicans want to do is risk his future by overworking him now.
They are going to love Zion Williamson in New Orleans — and throughout the NBA.
Williamson made his long-awaited NBA debut on Wednesday night to great fanfare. Though he was on a strict minutes restriction from the Pelicans, he made a huge impact.
Williamson played the first four minutes or so to start each of the three quarters and had just five points to that point. In the fourth quarter though, Williamson caught fire and was so good the Pelicans let him play about seven minutes.
Williamson made four straight 3-pointers in one stretch and accounted for 17 straight points. He also assisted on four points before scoring 17 in a row, meaning he had his hand in 21 straight New Orleans points.
Zion went off for 22 PTS and went 4/4 from 3PT in 18 minutes in his NBA debut pic.twitter.com/j1e5SgooGH
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 23, 2020
No surprise, the fans loved it and gave Zion “MVP” chants.
— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) January 23, 2020
The Pelicans lost to the San Antonio Spurs 121-117, but you have to wonder how much different things would have been had Zion been allowed to play more. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes. He made four threes in his NBA debut after going his entire Duke career without making that many in a game.
NBA fans will not have to wait much longer to see Zion Williamson make his pro debut, as the New Orleans Pelicans have finally placed a timetable on the No. 1 overall pick’s return from a knee injury.
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Wednesday that the plan is for Williamson to make his debut on Jan. 22 against the San Antonio Spurs, which is a home game.
Jan. 22 against San Antonio is the target for Zion Williamson's NBA debut says Pelicans EVP of basketball operations David Griffin, who is speaking live to reporters now
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 15, 2020
Williamson has already missed exactly half of his rookie season, as the Pelicans have played 41 games. They are 15-26 and could use a boost if they want to climb into the playoff picture, but they are still playing it safe with Williamson and will likely have him on a minutes restriction when he returns.
The Pelicans have been going to great lengths in an attempt to put Williamson in a position where his knee issues won’t linger. He was initially expected to miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee in October, but he has already surpassed that time frame. Fans in New Orleans are more than ready to see what the former Duke star can do.
Zion Williamson gave a young New Orleans Pelicans fan a cool souvenir on Saturday.
Williamson went through a workout prior to the team’s game on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers, and punctuated things with a dunk:
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 28, 2019
After he finished his workout, he signed shoes for a young fan:
Zion then made a special memory for a kid pic.twitter.com/GL0pqtKcCQ
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 28, 2019
The deal included a swap of shoes that was said to have left the fan shoeless:
Zion walked off the court, signed autographs and then traded shoes with a kid.
Zion gave him one of his shoes and then took one of the kids as a part of the deal.
Kid doesn’t have shoes to go home with… but I think he’s okay with that. pic.twitter.com/ULrsPJmuvE
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) December 28, 2019
That’s probably a deal anyone would accept.
Williamson, the No. 1 draft pick, has not played since injuring his knee before the season. The Pelicans are taking their time bringing him back and reportedly have even been teaching him to run and walk differently.
Zion Williamson’s return from a knee injury is taking longer than expected, and that’s because the New Orleans Pelicans reportedly are working hard to makeover the No. 1 pick in many ways.
During the first quarter of Wednesday’s Pelicans-Denver Nuggets game, ESPN’s Jorge Sedano gave a sideline report talking about Williamson’s progress. In the report, Sedano shared that the Pelicans are reprogramming Williamson.
The Pelicans are “reprogramming [Williamson] physically,” Sedano said. “It’s all about the kinetic chain of the body, even teaching him to walk and run differently. He mentioned the staff gets on him when he’s not doing it right.”
Sedano said that Williamson told him he’d already be back playing if the team let him.
“If it were up to me, I’d be out there already, but I trust the organization and how they’re handling me,” Williamson told Sedano.
Williamson is currently doing individual and group drills, but no 5-on-5 work yet. The Pelicans would like to have him doing 5-on-5 drills after the new year, according to the report.
Williamson was initially expected to miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee in October and has gone past that time frame. It seems a little odd that the Pelicans want to remake such a stellar athlete, but like Williamson said, he is trusting them. The Pelicans recently said they will not rush him back.
The New Orleans Pelicans are playing things cautiously with Zion Williamson and will not be rushing back the No. 1 draft pick from his knee injury.
Shortly after suffering a torn right meniscus, Williamson was given a window of six-to-eight weeks to return from the injury. That was on October 21. Eight weeks later, Williamson is not yet ready to make his NBA debut and, according to Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, the team is taking it slow with its prized asset.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry on rookie Zion Williamson’s knee: “He’s doing some stuff with us in practice, but we’re taking it slow. He’s working his butt off to get back on the court. We’ll put him out there when he’s ready to play. It’s not going to be any big rush.”
— kerry eggers (@kerryeggers) December 24, 2019
Williamson’s debut, when it does take place, will be among the more anticipated in recent NBA memory. The Pelicans are slated to play on Christmas Day, which has long been a showcase for the NBA. Williamson was the driving force in the decision to put New Orleans on the schedule for that day.
Unfortunately, the basketball world will have to wait a bit longer to see Zion Williamson as a professional.
Zion Williamson is a bit over a month removed from the knee surgery that has delayed his much-anticipated NBA debut, and the New Orleans Pelicans are now providing some hints as to when his return date might approximately be.
Appearing Friday on ESPN New Orleans 100.3, Pelicans GM David Griffin discussed the No. 1 overall pick’s progress from a torn right lateral meniscus.
“He’s progressing exactly as we had hoped he would,” said Griffin. “We’re really optimistic, and most importantly, Zion is really excited and that’s where we want him to be.”
Griffin also said the team would “err on the side of caution” with Williamson but that he was on schedule with his original six-to-eight week timetable.
“Right now, I think we’re on target for eight weeks,” Griffin added. “Probably not to the day, but in and around that.”
The 19-year-old Williamson underwent surgery on Oct. 20, and eight weeks would put his return date right around mid-December. The Pelicans have started the year just 6-9 in his absence (tenth in the West), but Williamson may have more pressing matters to attend to for now.