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Finally! Zion Williamson in starting lineup for long-awaited debut as improving Pelicans take on Spurs – ESPN, Espn.com

Finally! Zion Williamson in starting lineup for long-awaited debut as improving Pelicans take on Spurs – ESPN, Espn.com

PM ET

  • Andrew Lopez ESPN

NEW ORLEANS – When his pregame availability ended, coach Alvin Gentry let out a playful – but slightly serious – yell: “I don’t have to answer questions anymore!”

It was a sense of relief that finally – ½ weeks after right knee surgery robbed him of his original debut date –

New Orleans Pelicans

) rookie Zion Williamson was set to play in his first regular- season NBA game.

Williamson started Wednesday’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs but did score before taking a seat for the first time. He had an assist, a turnover and a missed layup in the first quarter before checking out with 8 minutes, 9 seconds left.

Williamson posted his first NBA field goal, a one-foot shot, at the 10: 90 mark of the second quarter, but followed with an offensive charge for a turnover exactly one minute later. Derrick Favors replaced him for the Pelicans with 7: (left in the half.)

Through three quarters, Williamson had five points, four rebounds and four turnovers in minutes. He was in the lineup when the fourth quarter began.

The Pelicans have said time and again that Williamson isn’t coming to save the franchise. They continued that approach by introducing Williamson second in the starting lineup, behind Brandon Ingram . Jrue Holiday was last. That said, the team, the franchise and the city all understand what type of player has joined the starting five.

“I think if you are adding a great player in there, he will find a way to adjust and we will find a way to make it adjust, “Gentry said before the game. “But obviously it’s the first game that he’s playing in the NBA, so we will just see how it goes. But everyone else still? You play the way you played with the consistency that we played over the last two or three weeks and with the energy that we played with. So, integrating him into what we are doing is not going to be that difficult. “

The Pelicans started the season 6 – but had won (of) games entering Wednesday. Despite the mild run, even Williamson’s teammates – while anxious – said they would be patient.

After Monday’s victory over the (Memphis Grizzlies) , Ingram and Lonzo Ball were talking between themselves about what play to run to try to get a dunk for Williamson. Even Spurs coach Gregg Popovich appreciated the moment Wednesday ahead of Williamson’s debut.

“I’m glad he’s back,” Popovich said. “You know it’s – a talent like that – you know he’s a great guy on top of it all. The whole world needs to see him. So I mean, obviously, it’s good for the Pelicans, but it’s good for basketball. He’s quite a package, both as a player and as a person. “

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