January 22nd was the long awaited return of Zion Williamson. The first round draft pick made his debut at home and played in the first game of his NBA career. The last time Zion was on the floor came in a preseason game back in October. In a preseason game against the Knicks it is believed that Zion tore his meniscus. Following this game Zion underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and missed the first three months of the season. Last night, all eyes were on The Smoothie King Center and Zion Williamson.
The game was unremarkable for the most part, except for about a two minutes of the fourth quarter. The highest scorer was the Spurs’ Lamarcus Aldridge, who scored 32 points going 12-for-20 from the field in 25 minutes. The New Orleans young core who has been in all year seemed to be a little lacking. Brandon Ingram scored 22 points on 6-for-20 shooting (1-for-8 from the three point line). Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart helped out with 14 and 10 points each respectively. With Zion off the floor, the Pelicans offense was stagnant, scoring just enough to trail by 10 for the majority of the game.
Now for the reason everyone watched a Pelicans vs Spurs game in January: Zion Williamson. Anyone who has seen him play before knows he came out slow. His movements were awkward, he wasn’t playing aggressively, and he seemed to have some trouble catching the ball. Even if you didn’t watch it all you had to do was look at Twitter to see what everyone else thought. His first three quarters looked rough, he only had five points the entire time. He turned that around in the fourth though.
At the 8:55 minute mark, Zion knocked down a three, scored a layup, then he put in another three, ending up scoring 17 points in around two minutes. He went 4-for-4 from the three point line during this stretch. Defenders were sagging and leaving their hands down challenging Zion and he took advantage. Head Coach Alvin Gentry took him out during a timeout following this ridiculous hot streak and while the Pelicans were up one. Zion never returned to the game and the Pelicans quickly lost the lead and never recovered. It’s understandable that Gentry is worried about Zion’s health, but if you have a player that hot, most people know to let him keep shooting.
Zion looked great for a couple minutes… spectacular even. The fact remains however that he does need to continue to work on his weight and improve his quickness and movements. It’s tough playing as many basketball games as NBA players do, so the Pelicans training staff should do everything it can to ensure Zion has a long, healthy career. If those two minutes showed anything at all, it’s that Zion is capable of being an instant star in this league.