NBA Twitter Thrilled by Zion Williamson's Injury Return in Pelicans' Preseason Opener

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVOctober 5, 2022

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 04: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans warms up prior to a preseason game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on October 04, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

For the first time since May 2021, Zion Williamson was back on the court for an NBA basketball game.

The New Orleans Pelicans star made his highly anticipated preseason debut during Tuesday's game against the Chicago Bulls and gave fans a taste of what he might do when the season begins with 13 points in just 15 minutes.

He knocked in four of his six shots from the field and all five of his free-throw attempts. He also chipped in four rebounds, one assist and one steal as part of a 129-125 Pelicans win.

"Couldn't show them everything," Williamson told reporters. "But just kind of getting a feel for it again. Find spots. Picking and choosing where I want to attack. But, I got a new team since the last time I played. I'm still learning some of the guys. Today we were able to click. I feel like if we can do that for the rest of these preseason games, I feel we'll be in pretty good shape."

Williamson's return was one of the biggest storylines of the preseason after he missed the entire 2021-22 campaign, which would have been his third in the league. He also played just 24 games as a rookie, but those durability concerns didn't stop the Pelicans from giving him a max contract extension this offseason.

One look at the Duke product blowing past Patrick Williams for a monster dunk and protecting the rim on the other end had social media remembering why he is worth the contract as a franchise cornerstone for years to come:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

OKAY ZION 💪 <a href="https://t.co/GEBrBYGqRb">pic.twitter.com/GEBrBYGqRb</a>


"Nah" - Zion Williamson<br><br>Watch Live on TNT and in the NBA App<a href="https://t.co/rtPKXguol7">https://t.co/rtPKXguol7</a> <a href="https://t.co/wduiSCppVK">pic.twitter.com/wduiSCppVK</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Welcome back, Zion 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/WFTHBYKV1f">pic.twitter.com/WFTHBYKV1f</a>

Shamit Dua @FearTheBrown

Bruh that was stupid fast. Zion teleported off the jab step to a dunk my god

Shamit Dua @FearTheBrown

I haven't seen Zion this active on defense since Duke...<br><br>If this is what we are getting, it's over

Jake Madison @NOLAJake

Zion playing like this defensively...

Mason Ginsberg @MasonGinsberg

Zion drive and kick to CJ for a corner 3 lol what do you even do?

Dan Devine @YourManDevine

Four defenders (and a teammate) ringing around Zion on the drive. Lot of Pelicans'll get to play pop-a-shot if he's getting downhill. <a href="https://t.co/vldvYYV7Vc">https://t.co/vldvYYV7Vc</a>

Lexie Brown @Lexiebrown

Zion looks great. Happy he’s back healthy 🙌🏾

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Watching Zion play makes me smile a big smile. It's so good to have him back.

Scott Kushner @ScottDKushner

Zion looks so much healthier and happier than anytime I’ve seen him in a Pelicans uniform. <br><br>We’ll see how it all plays out, but it’s a striking difference. It resembles the Zion we saw at Duke a whole lot more than the first three years as a pro.

Erin Summers @ErinESummers

Zion has not stopped smiling and I love it. It’s so good to see him playing again! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pelicans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pelicans</a> <a href="https://t.co/sQwNQBPowR">https://t.co/sQwNQBPowR</a>

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

Zion starting to look like his old self with that rebound and push in transition that ended with the layup by JV.

Having a healthy Williamson elevates New Orleans' ceiling into a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, especially if he resembles the player who averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field during the 2020-21 season.

The Pelicans emerged from the play-in tournament and then challenged the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the playoffs last season with a promising core that includes Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas, Herb Jones, Jaxson Hayes and Jose Alvarado.

Throw in a full year of CJ McCollum, who they acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers via trade last season, and Williamson, and a deep postseason run should be the goal in New Orleans in 2022-23.

Having Williamson back on the floor on Tuesday was just the first step, but it was an important one.