Zion feeling fine after stellar debut, Gentry says


METAIRIE, La. — It was business as usual for the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday afternoon.

The team went through a normal practice the day after Wednesday’s 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs as they prepped for a Friday showdown against the Denver Nuggets.

But the extra eyes in the practice facility were focused on Zion Williamson, who had a sensational debut capped by a scoring stretch of 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter.

Williamson was pulled at the 5:23 mark of the fourth quarter as a part of the medical team’s plan to keep his playing time limited. Williamson didn’t want to check out but Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry stuck with the team’s gameplan despite the scorching stretch. On Thursday, Gentry said Williamson went through a complete practice without restrictions.

“He is fine really,” Gentry said. “Practiced today and everything, so there was no soreness and he said he was fine.”

Against the Spurs, Williamson was limited to four “bursts” as he started each quarter but only played between three and four minutes in the first, second and third quarters. New Orleans let him play just over 6½ minutes in the fourth quarter as he went on his hot streak.

Gentry said the team won’t know how long Williamson will be cleared to play against the Nuggets until Friday morning after the shootaround.

Williamson finished his NBA regular-season debut with 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists on 8-for-11 shooting while hitting all four of his 3-pointers in just 18 minutes.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 22 points are the most by a player in his NBA debut while playing fewer than 20 minutes in the shot clock era (since 1954-55). Also, he became the first player in NBA history to go 4-for-4 (or better) from 3-point range in his NBA debut.

The game was a success in the ratings, too. According to overnight Nielsen numbers, it had 2.357 million viewers and peaked at 2.777 million, up 88% over last year’s comparable game. It got a 1.6 rating, matching ESPN’s highest-rated NBA game this season, non-Christmas Day game.

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