Pelicans' Zion Williamson scores 13 points in 15 minutes in 106-104 loss to Jazz

by 24USATVJuly 31, 2020, 3 a.m. 17
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Wiliamson looked like his explosive self Thursday at HP Field House, scoring 13 points in 15 minutes in the Pelicans' loss to the Jazz.

Williamson did not appear to have lost a step during the NBA's four-month layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic. He had extensive conditioning, weight training and basketball workouts with his stepfather during quarantine.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, his limited minutes had expired in the game's final minutes, leaving Williamson on the bench to watch the lead – at one point 16 points – slip away. Utah's Rudy Gobert, ththe first player known to test positive for the coronavirus, hit the game-winning free throws.

“They weren't holding me back," Williamson said after the game. "Yeah, I did want to be out there, but we’re just working my way back into my flow. That's all it is.”

After Williamson completed a pre-game warmup, the Pelicans determined he could start and play on limited minutes, despite Williamson's suggestion a day earlier that he was ready to go full-tilt.

“Of course, we wish we could have played him down the stretch, but you use the minutes that [were] given to us. That’s just the way it is. I mean, we weren’t going to stick him back out there," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought he looked good. I thought he had some good moments, and obviously, we’re a much better and a much different basketball team when he’s out on the floor.”

Williamson missed all of the Pelicans’ three scrimmages because of his nine-day absence to attend what he called "an urgent family matter."

He spent four days in quarantine as part of the league's health and safety protocols for players that receive approval to leave the campus for personal reasons. Williamson also had to receive negative tests daily for COVID-19.

The Pelicans handled Williamson with care earlier in the season, but for different reasons. After he missed the first 44 games to recover from a surgically-repaired right knee, Williamson averaged 25 minutes through his first five games. The Pelicans gradually increased his minutes through 10 games in February (30.6) and five games in March (33) before the NBA halted operations because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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