Zion Williamson won't play 'significant minutes' in next few games, per Pelicans vice
The 2019-20 NBA season resumed on Thursday night inside the league's Disney World bubble, and it didn't take long for controversy to arise. New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson was on a minutes restriction, and played just 15 minutes in the team's loss to the Utah Jazz, and was notably absent down the stretch, as the game slipped away from the Pels.
After the loss, there were many who felt the Pelicans should have put Williamson in for the final few minutes, regardless of his minutes plan. Or, that head coach Alvin Gentry should have saved some minutes for the end of the game for such a scenario. Williamson, who finished with 13 points in his limited run, wasn't frustrated, however, explaining that he needed time to get his "flow to the game back."
On Friday, Pelicans vice president David Griffin addressed the media, and opened with a statement about the Pelicans' plan regarding their star rookie. The most significant note was that it's going to be a few games until Williamson will be playing normal minutes. Here it is in full:
I just want to make a statement regarding Zion Williamson. I know there's a lot of consternation about the fact that he didn't play more, and I wanted to try and make this make sense for everyone. When we got here, our performance team had a very clear plan laid out for every member of the team. Every member of the team got to go through that plan, and that plan included scrimmage minutes that many of the team got to play. Many of our players were held to 15 minutes or 12 minutes or whatever. Not because there's a fixed minute number, but because there's a fixed approach to how they were going to play the game. Everybody got to do that throughout the course of the scrimmages.
Zion didn't get that opportunity. Unfortunately because of the situation with his family, he was called away. It was a very legitimate reason to leave. But unfortunately, he's 13 days removed from the group in terms of following that plan, after not playing basketball for what amounts to four months. So I appreciate the fact that everybody wants him to play 40 minutes tomorrow night. I can promise you he's not going to.
No mistakes were made yesterday relative to how this was handled, other than by me in not coming forward and just expressing this in the clearest way possible. This isn't complicated. Again, he will not play significant minutes in the next game, and he may not in the following game frankly. This is all about the ramp up time. He didn't get the benefit of any of the things that his teammates got for those 13 days. So again, this is gonna take some time, and I think it's gonna take time for him -- I think he mentioned his flow and rhythm -- it's gonna take time for him to find that.
As Griffin noted, Williamson was outside of the bubble for nearly two weeks to attend to a family matter. Even if he was able to work out during that stretch, he wasn't practicing or playing in the scrimmages with his team. And by the time he got back to Orlando and cleared quarantine, he had just two days to prepare for Thursday night's game.
Considering he missed the first half of this season after undergoing knee surgery, and how cautious the Pelicans were in his return from that rehab, it's little surprise that they're taking no chances inside the bubble. As much as they would like to make the playoffs this season, this is a long-term project, and it all centers around Williamson's health.
They can't risk that, especially for just a few of these seeding games. And especially when they remain in a good position. Even with the loss, they're four games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth seed, and just have to remain inside that margin in order to qualify for the play-in tournament.
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