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Pelicans’ plan for Zion Williamson’s minutes if season resumes, revealed

Pelicans, Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry claims rookie star Zion Williamson was playing normal minutes after his first five or six NBA games.

The Pelicans initially had Williamson on a minutes restriction after the 2019 No. 1 overall pick returned from his knee surgery.

However, according to Gentry, that restriction was lifted early.

If the 2019-20 season resumes, Gentry said he and his staff will talk about how it looks for Williamson from a minute standpoint:

“We’ll have those conversations. Obviously, his health will be the number one priority, but the restriction was really off after his first 5-6 games,” the Pelicans head coach told reporters on a conference call. “So, he was playing the minutes that he would normally play, considering with any situation really. But, it will be something that we talk about when we do resume and as far as how it looks for Zion from a minute standpoint, and we’ll do that really with some of the other players.”

Gentry also emphasized the “unprecedented” situation that the coronavirus-forced NBA suspension brings, which suggests the Pelicans could err on the side of caution when handling Zion’s minutes, as well as the whole team’s.

“This is unprecedented, really. You play in a basketball game, you play 60 games and then all of a sudden the season ends, and then now it’s going to start back up. So, this is going to be something that is different for every single player that has ever played in the NBA or is playing in the NBA now,” Alvin Gentry added.

“So, as far as – I mean we’ll get with our medical people. I mean obviously Aaron (Nelson), (Head Athletic Trainer) Tom (Maystadt), and those guys are going to have a big say-so into how we play our rotations and how we practice and how long we practice, and this along those lines. I’ll sit down with those guys, and they’ll have input into all of those situations.”

Before the season was suspended due to COVID-19, Zion Williamson averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the Pelicans. The lefty shot 58.9 percent from the floor, 46.2 percent from beyond the arc, and 64.5 percent from the free-throw line.

Williamson told Ernie Johnson of Turner Sports this week that he’s been staying in shape at home and shooting jump shots at his hoop. With that said, Gentry and Co. might not need to worry too much about Zion’s conditioning if and when the season resumes.

With Zion leading the way, the Pelicans have a bright future. The former Duke star is joined in New Orleans by fellow talented youngsters Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Josh Hart, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.