Pelicans fans aren't happy with Zion Williamson's minutes restriction. They need their star to be on the court if they want to make a run at the No. 8 seed in the West and, at the very least, compete for a play-in game. Neither are NBA fans, who tune into a Pelicans game for no other reason than to witness the gargantuan forward continue to blow their minds with his insane athleticism. And neither, most likely, are NBA marketing executives, who view Zion as a new face for the league and depend on his presence in the Orlando bubble to bring more hype and attention to the league restart.
But, most importantly, Zion himself isn't very happy with his minutes restriction, according to senior NBA insider Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports (h/t Adam Wells of Bleacher Report).
"I'll say this - Zion's pissed," Haynes said. "Like, he wanted to play. And obviously, I think members of the Pelicans feel like if he was able to go down the stretch or play significant minutes that they would've gotten the win last night."
As Haynes alluded to, the team deployed him in short bursts, and you could see just how effective he was in those spurts. Right off the bat, he scored five points for the Pelicans, but was taken out after three minutes of action and was kept sidelined for the remainder of the opening quarter. In just under four minutes of play in the second quarter, he scored four points before being taken out again. The same happened in the third quarter: a score and a sweet assist, and then a substitution four minutes into the quarter.
He wasn't in at the end of the game, when the Jazz ultimately rallied from down seven to take the lead and secure the victory. He finished with 13 points on six-of-eight shooting in only 15 minutes of play.
But the Pelicans can't really afford to lose these games if they want their playoff hopes to continue. The Blazers and Kings are now technically ahead of the Pelicans, though the result of their first game will dictate the standings, and the Grizzlies have a huge opportunity to gain a lead with their first contest against the Blazers on Friday night.
So does this mean the Pelicans should pull the plug on Zion's minutes restriction and put the pedal to the metal? Maybe it does -- but that doesn't mean that's what they're going to do.
David Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, explained that Zion's minutes look the way that they do because of the Pelicans' minutes structure and the young star's departure from the bubble to deal with a family matter, which, in turn, put him behind the rest of the pack.
"Unfortunately, because of the situation with his family, he was called away, and it was a very legitimate reason to leave," Griffin said. "But unfortunately, he's 13 days removed from the group in terms of following that plan after not playing basketball for... four months. I appreciate the fact that everybody wants him to play 40 minutes tomorrow not. I can promise you he's not going to.
"He will not play significant minutes in the next game and he may not in the following game, quite frankly. This is all about the ramp-up time, and he didn't get the benefit of any of the things that his teammates got for those 13 days, so again, this is going to take some time."