For the second time this season, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson “debuted” was engraved with a minute restriction that kept him out of the game close in the final minutes.
Williamson made his debut on January 22, and after his 17-point outburst nearly exploded the roof outside the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, the rookie headed to the bench for the last 5:23 and the Pelicans ended up losing against the San Antonio Spurs.
On Thursday evening as the NBA resumed its season with Williamson and the Pelicans in the first game, he was again absent in the final minutes in what turned into a 106-104 loss. in New Orleans for the Utah Jazz at Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Williamson was expected to play a predetermined number of minutes and had reached his quota when he came out in the fourth quarter with 7:19 remaining as New Orleans clicked for a four-point lead. He didn’t return even as the Jazz took the lead, or stayed 6.9 seconds as the Pelicans had a chance to tie or win, resting two.
“Sure we wish we could play down in the band, but we used the minutes we were given and so it is,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
“We weren’t going to keep coming back. The medical people said they played them in the minutes we were allowed to play with him, and we just passed. I thought he looked good, I thought he had some good moments, and of course we’re a much better and different team when he’s out. on the ground. “
Asked if this was a conditioning issue with Williamson – who missed the first 43 games of the season due to knee surgery – Gentry said, “I was told the minutes I could play, and that’s what I did.”
In total, Williamson played 15 minutes against the Jazz and scored 13 points on a 6-of-8 shooting. He didn’t fall down again for the first time in his small career in the NBA. He also committed three fouls, had two turnovers and was the worst in the career minus-16.
Williamson said he is “not just just conditioning” but is returning his flow and feel to the game.
“This is the NBA, this is the best players in the world, and you want to feel comfortable,” Williamson said. “I don’t want to hurt my team any more than I helped them in a sense, if you understand me.”
Williamson left the Orlando bubble on July 16 to tend to a family medical emergency and returned on July 24. Once he was back on NBA campus, he had a quarantine in his hotel room for four days.
He left quarantine on Tuesday and joined the Pelicans for practice but did no 5-on-5 or 3-on-3 work. He re-practiced the team Wednesday – though Gentry called that a light practice – and went through a shootaround Thursday morning. It was a game time decision for the opener against the Jazz.
Williamson said the team was not holding back and although he wanted to be on the ground late in the fourth quarter, the team could easily have kept him out altogether.
So how long will it take to get his flow back?
“Honestly, I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Williamson said. “I guess maybe a few games.”
Williamson claimed he did not suffer any setbacks while conditioning but mentioned that he felt like January again when it came to sitting down.
The loss dropped to New Orleans for 4.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with seven games to play. New Orleans will return to action Saturday against the LA Clippers before taking eighth place in the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.