Zion Williamson has done a whole lot for the New Orleans Pelicans through the first two games of his NBA career. The former Duke standout and No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in only 19.5 minutes per game, with that last number causing some displeasure among basketball fans who wanna watch Williamson impose his will on opponents.
The thinking, at least from the Pelicans’ point of view, is that Williamson is coming back from a surgical procedure on his knee, and for a myriad of reasons, the right decision is to take things slow. Despite the fact that fans were clamoring to see more of Williamson than they did on Friday night in a 113-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets — he scored 15 points in 21 minutes of work — New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry defended the team’s approach after the game.
Via Andrew Lopez of ESPN:
“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. “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.”
“It’s frustrating right now because I think with him on the floor, obviously we’re pretty good, but we also got to be sensible in our whole approach to it,” Gentry said. “We got to understand, as I said right from the start, we got to think long term here. So he was able to play 20, 21 minutes tonight.
Gentry is, of course, 100 percent right here — he mentioned that he’s going along with a plan that has a ton of input from the Pels’ medical team. There’s no point in rushing Williamson back, because even though New Orleans is in shouting distance of a postseason spot, the idea behind the team’s core is that it will be together for an extended period of time, and it’s risky to try and speed up that process just to make a push for the 8-seed this year.
The training wheels will be taken off of Williamson soon enough, and when they are, we’ll get to see if the stuff he does in 19.5 minutes a night is sustainable for twice as long. For now, though, the Pelicans will test the patience of fans with the hope that they see the light at the end of the tunnel.