New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said the team plan to play Zion Williamson in all eight of their seeding games when the NBA season resumes in Orlando as they push for a playoff place.
Gentry joined host Matt Winer on NBA TV’s Gametime on Thursday night and was asked if the fans could expect to see Williamson on the floor in each of the Pelicans’ remaining regular-season games.
“Yes, (that is the plan) right now,” Gentry said. “We will have to check with Aaron Nelson (Pelicans VP of player care and performance). He is going to be an integral part of (how many) minutes Zion plays and what stretches of games (Zion) plays in.”
Williamson, selected No 1 overall in the 2019 Draft, missed the opening 44 games of the season after undergoing knee surgery in October 2019. He made his debut in January 2020, reeling off a series of memorable performances.
Given Williamson’s injury history, Gentry revealed the team’s approach with Williamson since the season hiatus commenced in March was slightly different to that with his team-mates.
“Things were a little different for Zion,” he said. “Because of the injury that he had, he could go in (to the practice facility) for rehab and do things like that.
“It has been tough for all the guys, especially the rookies, because they have no idea how to maintain things. That is why they need directions. Zion has been working at it and we’ll see where he is from a conditioning standpoint. We are going to take all the precautions we possibly need to take.
“Obviously, we will not put him at risk in any kind of way with him coming back from the injury and being off this long. We will proceed with caution. We want to make the playoffs but not at the risk of doing something detrimental to us in the future.”
The NBA season is scheduled to resume at the end of July in a ‘campus’ environment at Disney World in Orlando with 22 teams playing eight regular-season ‘seeding’ games apiece to determine the 16 playoffs teams. A full postseason will then follow with the 2019-20 champions eventually being crowned in October.
Gentry, asked how best he felt the Pelicans could approach the restart, said: “No one has ever done this in the history of the league so it is going to be interesting. I think there are two approaches.
“You could treat it like a training camp and go from there. But we are going to try to make our guys understand we are picking up the season from where it left off. We were playing really good basketball (when the season was suspended in March) and we just want an opportunity to make the playoffs.
“We have been given that so we are going to pick up from where we left off and try to ramp it up that way rather than do it in a training camp-type fashion.
“It is a little scary for everyone. It has never been done. There has never been a situation with 22 teams in the same location for a long period of time. That’s the most worrisome thing for the players. From the guys I have talked to, being in that situation for that many days is going to be a challenge.
“But right now, the most important thing is that we are going to get back playing and we are going to resume the season. That is what the majority of the players want. Obviously, you can see their concern from a health standpoint and a family standpoint. That’s very understandable.”