Ashley Landis / Associated Press
After 15 minutes of action at night, the NBA returned from its hiatus, Zion Williamson is an incredible 580 in the season. Eleven members of the New Orleans Pelicans have signed up more time on the floor.
And yet, their season is about a man who wore a “Peace” jersey on his back on Thursday night.
In the 580 minutes Zion played, New Orleans is a plus-104 (actually minus 16 at a loss of 106-104 in Lake Utah). Zion hasn’t played in 2,570 minutes, the Pelicans are minus 159.
Unlike the important message he chose to display above his number, Zion’s he plays it is nothing but peaceful. He plays with a force that few players in the history of the league could bring, and the attention he commands opens things to his teammates.
As a result, in eight games at the end of the season, the game restriction is much more than a nuisance.
After leaving the “bubble” that placed Zion in the quarantine protocol until Wednesday, Malika Andrews tweeted shortly before guessing that the 20-year-old newcomer wouldplay in short batches ”during reopening.
After the loss, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry revealed that there was more to it than that.
“We wish we could play Zion downstream,” Gentry told ESPN Andrew Lopez. “But he used the minutes we were given. That’s exactly it. We won’t keep him there. Our medical team said we played to play it. “
This explanation does not only lead to further questions.
Is there an injury we don’t know about? Is it just a fitness problem? Wasn’t the team in Zion’s digital ear about lifelong conditioning? How or why did the leave lead to steps back on its timeline?
Perhaps the most important: Why save a few of these 15 minutes at the end of the game?
If there is a hard and fast rule that limits Zion to 15 minutes, coaches from New Orleans must extend it to include time for a crisis.
If the Pelicans want to make a playoffs, each of these games is extremely important. They must be in ninth place (in the worst case) and within four games from the eighth seed to force the situation in the game.
The four games of this equation are not huge. Even after Thursday’s loss, there are only four Memphis Grizzlies butts with the easiest remaining league schedule. The problem is that there are currently two teams between New Orleans and Memphis, one of which has Damian Lillard and finally a healthy front. Yeah, and the San Antonio Spurs now have one less loss.
The battle for the ninth will go down to the wire, much like the game on Thursday night. The Pelicans needed Zion then, and they will need him to move forward.
Ashley Landis / Associated Press
New Orleans may have been honored within minutes of playing against Utah, but he was the team’s most effective player this season. He must be there at great times.
In his limited action on Thursday, he showed almost no rust coming from quarantine.
6 of 8 left the field and made a single free kick attempt. In his first bucket, he basically went through the typically rugged Royce O’Neale on his way into off-road terrain and at almost full speed. He scored on a traditional post by Georges Niang. He later punished the same lawyer for setting him 15 feet from the rim by turning him behind an alley.
To the one who usually finds it, he built a little hoarse at the back with a dime at the back.
Bleaching message @BleacherReport
Zion followed his back. https://t.co/250L1OvQRA
All the physical instruments were on the live display, but the intangible aspects of his play are even more important. Williamson feels like a veteran. He knows when to attack and when to postpone. His prediction and use of mowing and steering angles can be just as helpful as his athleticism in creating open looks.
The road for Zion is still growing, especially at the defensive end, but is more than ready to positively influence the playoff team. If this minute limit is held much longer (or if it is managed as it was on Thursday), he may not have a chance to do so.
When Zion last withdrew with the last 7:19 in the fourth quarter, New Orleans rose 93-89 (a probability of winning of 73.7%). For the rest of the game, Utah center Rudy Gobert had four points, including winning free throws and four rebounds. New Orleans’ big men joined in this section for zero points and two rebounds.
Whether the Pelicans can reach Zion’s minutes soon, they can’t afford to get back to that position.
This season is about newcomers with the potential of a superstar on earth and a desire for peace. And this is especially true for each of the following seven games.