Zion Williamson backed to continue shining after dazzling NBA debut

By Ben Spratt 23 January 2020 9
Zion Williamson backed to continue shining after dazzling NBA debut

Alvin Gentry and Jrue Holiday believe there is even more to come from Zion Williamson after his impressive NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The number one overall draft pick belatedly made his regular-season bow following knee surgery, scoring 22 points - including 17 in a stunning fourth-quarter stretch - in the 121-117 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson made each of his four three-pointers following a slow start, and head coach Gentry quickly saw progress in his game.

"I think you'll see that in him," Gentry said. "It's his first NBA game, but I think the third time he went out there he was much more comfortable, much more aggressive.

"He found out that everybody makes mistakes and he just continued to play through them. I think, for him, it was just a relief to have one game under his belt.

"And now all of this goes away: first game, first game, first game. Now he can just play and get himself in a situation where he can continue to learn and continue to grow."

Gentry saw evidence of Williamson's "really, really high ceiling" but had to take the 19-year-old out of the game with more than five minutes left on doctors' orders.

"It was going to be a learning experience either way - if he played well, if he didn't play well," the coach said.

"I think the big thing is that he was much more aggressive during that situation. We talked at half-time, as I thought he was deferring way too much and I wanted him to be aggressive.

"I knew that he would make some mistakes, but I think what you saw there is a taste of what [is to come]. Once we get settled in and he gets settled in, there are a lot of things that we can do with him.

"There's a lot of potential there. It was good to see him do that. But I think there's a really, really high ceiling that he can reach. We'll just continue on, continue to practice.

"And no, he couldn't go back in the game. So don't go there. The medical people said that was it.

"We've got to be smart about it. I'm pretty sure Sean [Payton, New Orleans Saints coach] wouldn't take Drew Brees out in that situation. But we've got to be smart about it.

"We have to look long term and not one game, short term, and put him out there extended minutes. We were not going to do that in any situation.

"I think he made his point and he will continue to get better. But we can't sacrifice his whole future for one short-term thing."

Team-mate Holiday is certainly excited about what is to come, appearing alongside Williamson at a post-game news conference and interrupting one question to explain there is no return to "normal" when it comes to the teenager.

"This is going to be normal for him," Holiday said. "The way he plays, this is something he could do every day.

"We're here to help him and obviously for him to contribute to us and help us out, too. But with him being back, he's waited a long time for this and he's really excited to play - speaking for Zion."

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