The most anticipated debut in NBA history since LeBron James was ruined due to New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry removing Zion Williamson in the midst of his fourth quarter blaze.
Zion Williamson took the floor for the first time in a regular season game in his NBA career and prior to the matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said there was no minutes restriction on Zion Williamson but the team would ease him in slowly and play him in “short consecutive minutes.”
All was going according to plan until Williamson caught fire in the fourth quarter.
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After just five points through an inconsistent first three quarters, the No. 1 pick rattled off 17 straight points in the fourth quarter for New Orleans and turned what was once a 15-point deficit into a one-point lead.
Throughout the run that sent the Smoothie King Center and social media world into a frenzy, Gentry was consistently sending players to the scorer’s table trying to remove the former Duke star from the game, but ultimately calling them back as the rookie continued to make basket after basket.
The outburst of points came in just three minutes and eight seconds of game time.
Zion Williamson ended his first NBA game having played 18 minutes and in the process dropped 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists on 8-of-11 shooting, 4-of-4 from 3-point range, and 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
After Gentry called a timeout, the future NBA superstar exited the game with his team trailing by three points with 5:23 left to play in regulation.
Five more minutes would have injured him? Really?
As Jeff Van Gundy pointed out during the broadcast, the object of the game is to win and Alvin Gentry didn’t give his team the chance to win the game by taking his best player off the floor in crunch time while he was hotter than the sun.
Williamson scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, while everyone else on the Pelicans scored a combined 18 points as the Spurs went on to win, 121-117.
Zion made more 3-pointers in his three minute hot streak than he did in any game he played at Duke. He made more 3-pointers in his three minute hot streak than Ben Simmons has in 203 NBA games. But he wasn’t allowed to play five more minutes in a game the Pelicans needed if they want to be a serious threat for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
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Zion Williamson is not just the future of the New Orleans Pelicans, but the future of the NBA and his anticipated debut could have been capped off by a Steph Curry-like hot streak along with a victory, but his head coach would not play him five more minutes.