Zion finally makes his Pelican’s debut
Chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” echoed among the rafters of the Smoothie King Center Wednesday night as New Orleans Pelicans’ 19-year old, rookie superstar Zion Williamson made his long-awaited NBA debut nearly half way into the 2019-2020 season.
The top-overall draft pick in this season’s draft was sidelined for the Pelicans’ first 44 games while rehabbing a meniscus injury in his left knee.
Concerned with easing him into the speed of the game, Williamson played just 18 of the contest’s 48 minutes. Still, he scored 22 points – including going 4-4 on three point attempts – and had seven rebounds, three assists.
Though San Antonio won, 121–117, Williamson scored 17 straight points in three minutes in the fourth quarter before being benched in an abundance of caution to prevent re-injury.
“We have to be smart about it,” head coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. “We understand that we have to look long term and not look one game, short term and put him out there and play him extended minutes.”
In his first NBA game, Zion (yes, he’s already recognizable by his first name) lived up to the expectations basketball fans around the world have created since he exploded onto the sports scene at Duke University last year. Him living up to expectations after not being able to play for three months relieves a heavy load that’s been on the shoulders of all with interest in the Navy, Red & Gold.
“The energy the crowd brought, the energy the city brought, it was electric, and I’m just grateful that they did that,” Williamson said in the post-game press conference. “It was a dream come true to finally get out there; but at the end of the day, I did want to win, so just got to look to the next game.”
Williamson’s return brings a lot of excitement for the remainder of the season. Without Williamson, the Pelicans have had a rough time getting off of the ground. Their record is currently 17-28, and there have been whispers that the team might make some of the better players on the roster available for a trade. A recent win streak and Zion’s return have caused such talk to cease.
While winning just 38% of their games and sitting in 12th place out of 15 teams in the Western Conference seems like reason for the team to hang their heads, the truth is the Pelicans are in prime position to make the playoffs. The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the postseason. With 37 regular season games remaining, New Orleans is only four games behind the eighth-place Spurs. With the return of, arguably, the most talented player on the team, the Pelicans have more than a legitimate chance to keep playing when the regular season ends.
With Carnival season about to enter full swing, the Crescent City is more than ready to party. Zion’s return is raising the revelry and could extend it well into festival season.