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Zion Williamson to Be Used in 'Short Bursts' in Pelicans Debut After Knee Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) practices before an NBA basketball game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Clippers in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Williamson is expected to return to play Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry confirmed that rookie Zion Williamson would start and be utilized in "short bursts" in his NBA regular-season debut on Wednesday night vs. the San Antonio Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Gentry says Zion will start and be used in "short bursts" #Pelicans https://t.co/yHlID7Sruv

Williamson has missed New Orleans' first 44 games this season as he recovered from a torn meniscus in his right knee, suffered during the preseason.

It was a lot of times when I wanted to just punch a wall or kick chairs because it's frustrating to not be able to move your body the way you want to," Williamson said Tuesday of that recovery period, per Scott Cacciola of the New York Times.

"It's been very difficult," he added. "But it's finally here. I finally get to go back out there."

NBA fans and the city of New Orleans have been eagerly anticipating his debut. Williamson, 19, was a force of nature in his one season at Duke, averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting a ridiculous 68 percent from the field.

That made him the most obvious top overall pick in recent memory, and he certainly looked the part in four preseason games, averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.4 percent from the field. 

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Few players match the physical frame (6'6" and 284 pounds) Williamson possesses with his elite explosiveness. He'll already be one of the NBA's most powerful and exciting dunkers as soon as he hits the court, conjuring memories of peak Shawn Kemp. 

He could also give the Pelicans a legit shot to make a run at a postseason berth. Despite being 17-27 on the season, the Pels have won 11 of their past 16 games and are somehow just 3.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. 

Of course, keeping him healthy is the team's top priority. That's where the "short bursts" of game time comes into play. The last thing New Orleans wants is to overwork the rookie early in his career. The hope will be, however, that those short stints live up to the massive hype that has been created around the top overall pick. 

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