Takeaways From the Dawn of the Zion Era in New Orleans

Hooooooly Shit. That was all I could say during the few minutes of the 4th in which Zion put the NBA on it’s head.

I won’t pretend to be the biggest Pelicans fan because I am not. In sports, I follow athletes I like more than I do teams. Zion is an athlete I like…a lot. I am glad he is in my own backyard. Naturally, I much like the Pels faithful, have been chomping at the bit waiting for the new blood of the new era of New Orleans basketball to debut. He delivered. The crowd delivered. And this city got a taste of what this mammoth of a human can do. It was glorious.

January 22, 2020 marked the beginning of the Zion era of New Orleans Pelicans basketball.

Everything about last night was glorious. I turned to the friends I was watching with and we all simultaneously thought “holy shit” when we saw the crowd. It was awesome to see a packed house for the Pels. Speaking of the crowd, shoutout to the guy who was screaming during the Spurs free throws. Someone should get that guy a medal.

As far as Zion, regardless of how that debut goes, it was just great seeing him in the Pels uniform and on the court finally. I thought he played ok, not great until the fourth. He looked like he was just trying to find a rhythm which is natural. Obviously, he looked rusty for much of the game which led to five turnovers. Gentry talked with him at halftime and I love what he said.

“I told him I wanted him to be more aggressive and wanted him to enjoy the moment,” Gentry said. “Don’t take this lightly. It’s a great moment for you. It’s what you’ve worked for your whole life is to be able to walk out and play in an NBA game. So enjoy that moment and not to worry about it, and we’re gonna be fine as a team, and you’re gonna be fine as a player.”

Then in the fourth, he dialed in.

The onslaught started with an assist to Josh Hart at 9:47.
Zion defensive rebound.
Zion assist.
BANG! Zion three.
Zion alley oop layup.
BANG! Zion three.
Zion defensive rebound.
Zion offensive rebound.
Zion two.
BANG! Zion three.
BANG! Zion three.
Zion two for two from the charity stripe.

DO YOU BRO!

Brandon Ingram checks in for Zion, but not after he put the NBA on notice. From the 9:47 mark until he checked out of the game at 5:23, he compiled 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. His run helped the Pels capture a 3-point lead after being down by 10.

Although the Pelicans lost, consider it a win on what Zion did as we all got a small taste of his game changing ability.

Why Pull Him?

Last night, the obvious reaction (despite knowing he was playing limited minutes) is don’t you dare pull the guy. Zion was pissed. The fans were pissed. Most watching were probably pissed. Of course the questions of why were answered in the aftermath.

Head Coach Alvin Gentry said in the post game that the medical staff told him to pull Zion. Apprehensively, he had to.

“I don’t think anybody would be happy about it if you were playing at the level he was playing at, and then all of a sudden you had to come out of the game,” Gentry said. “I’m not the brightest coach in the world, but I wasn’t gonna take him out in those situations unless I was told to.”

What I love about Zion aside from his game is how likeable he is at the young age of 19. He handles himself like a pro. He has a lot going on between the ears. He understands and knows how to assess situations and not let emotions overcloud judgement. After the game was over, despite being visibly frustrated in the game, he understood why.

“It’s very hard,” Williamson said. “I’m 19. Honestly, in that moment, I’m not thinking about longevity. I’m thinking about winning the game. So it was very tough.”

No one wants to get pulled in the middle of hot streak. But sometimes, you have to play the long game. Hindsight is 20/20. Last night, I too was frustrated as a spectator. I gotta have more ZION baby. I had a fever and the only prescription was more Zion.

Today, I see why.

Situations like last night is why I don’t watch much regular season basketball to begin with. That is not knock at the sport. I completely understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. You see this in the NBA regular season. The best teams coast until after the all-star break while the bottom of the barrel tries to fight and claw for an 8 seed or tank for better odds.

It is a marathon. So you can’t sprint through 82 games or more if you’re in the playoffs. Of course we all wanted to see the Pels play for the win and ride the hot streak of Zion, but you have to play the long game of health too. It is a fine line that the NBA as a whole flirts with.

I don’t need to watch the regular season to have a real pulse on the best and worst teams in the league. You should know by now teams will turn it on slightly after the all-star break and even more so once the playoffs begin. The Pels are only 4 games back in the standings for the 8th seed. The best news of that is the hardest part of their schedule is behind them.

The first 45 games of the season ranked the hardest in the NBA. For the final 37 games, they have the easiest remaining schedule among the Western Conference. Hopefully last night is a small taste of what is to come as Zion gets healthier.

 

 

 

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