The Zion Williamson craze has taken over the NBA, and the only thing fans want is more Zion.
Williamson played his second career game for the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, a 113-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets, and turned in another quality outing. In just under 21 minutes he had 15 points, six rebounds, a steal and a block. He went 7-of-9 from the field and played two and a half minutes more than he did in his debut.
Fans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans weren’t satisfied, though. They chanted “we want Zion” at the end of the fourth quarter and Williamson sat on the bench.
Head coach Alvin Gentry hears those fans, and he understands that they want to see the NBA’s most promising star in action more, but the Pelicans have a plan for Williamson. After Friday’s game, Gentry defended the team’s handling of him.
“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.”
Williamson didn’t start the season after having surgery in October to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He missed the first three months of the season recovering from that, and the Pelicans have been very careful getting him back in action. Considering that Williamson was the first overall pick in the draft and has the potential to define and turn around a franchise, you can’t blame the Pelicans for playing it safe.
Gentry does understand the plight of the fans, though. Even though he’s “100 percent” behind the decisions of the medical staff, he gets exasperated by the limitations.
“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.
“I think he's shown he's getting more of a feel. The speed of the game and all of that. So we just got to be patient enough to understand to let him get to the point where he can play a normal rotation minutes. We will not deviate from that at all. If it will be a few more games, then that's what it's going to be and we just gotta understand.”
As Gentry said, it’s all about the long term. The Pelicans hope that by limiting him now and easing him into playing, they can help him to avoid missing more time in the future.
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