Zion Williamson a Game-Time Decision for Pelicans vs. Jazz NBA Restart Opener

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Zion Williamson will be a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Utah Jazz, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

Williamson had left the NBA's bubble in Orlando, Florida, because of a family emergency, but he returned Friday and tested negative for the coronavirus, per Malika Andrews of ESPN. League protocols required him to be quarantined through Tuesday.

The time away made him questionable to appear in Thursday's 6:30 p.m. ET matchup, which will be the first official game of the NBA's restart. Williamson did practice Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"Literally any player on our roster who went 13 days without doing any physical activity, it isn't going to be a given that we would just cut them loose in that next game," Pelicans manager David Griffin said Monday. "Particularly a player that generates as much torque as he does. So we will see where he's at."

New Orleans knows how to survive without the 6'6", 284-pound South Carolina native as the rookie has only played 19 games this year because of a knee injury. A deep lineup led by Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday have helped the team through the exhibition games and should remain competitive when things start to count.

However, every game is important for the Pelicans with just eight contests to earn a playoff spot.

The squad enters the restart 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, with the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings also in contention.

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Williamson has proved he can be a key part of the team's success after averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his limited action before the season was suspended. Even if his conditioning is less than ideal, New Orleans could benefit from the Duke product being on the court in any capacity.