The New Orleans Pelicans enter the 8-game seeding round of the NBA’s restart in Orlando needing to distance themselves from the Blazers and Kings in order to earn their way into the play-in round, likely against current 8-seed Memphis, who have a three-game lead on the tie for ninth.
New Orleans’ quest for that position hinges heavily on the play of rookie sensation Zion Williamson, but after Williamson had to leave the bubble for eight days for a family emergency, the young star’s status for Thursday’s game was in question, as he was listed as a game-time decision after only participating in two partial practices on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
About an hour before tipoff, word broke that Williamson would indeed play — getting his wish after saying Wednesday he “just wants to hoop” — but while there may not be a firm minutes restriction, the plan is to reportedly play him in short bursts.
Zion Williamson will play in short bursts tonight against the Jazz, sources tell ESPN.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 30, 2020
Sources: Williamson will play in short quick burst, not necessarily a minutes restriction. https://t.co/sxvYGfZgms
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 30, 2020
The Pelicans Twitter account confirmed the news via a GIF of Zion shortly thereafter, and Williamson was seen on the court going through his usual paces in pregame warmups.
Pelicans’ Zion Williamson before NBA Bubble opener pic.twitter.com/2a6lLzI0Co
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 30, 2020
It’s good news for a Pelicans team that was undoubtedly better when Williamson played, and how he looks and what impact he has in those bursts may dictate New Orleans ability to win as a short favorite against a Utah team that has its own seeding battle to worry about, currently holding tight to the fourth seed in the West.