’I was actually surprised:’ Fans react to Zion Williamson’s NBA debut

Zion Williamson's return

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Pelicans’ Zion Williamson made his big NBA debut, and many say, he delivered.

Some fans said they wish he wasn't pulled out of the game when the team held a brief lead.

"I don't think anyone expected 17 points in three minutes. So that was definitely not in anyone's plans," Andrew Creppel said.

Williamson wowed a full stadium last night with his performance, albeit short.

"You know, I'm 19. Honestly, in that moment I'm not thinking about longevity, I'm thinking about winning that game, so it was very tough," Williamson said.

Fans stood up and watched in amazement as Williamson brought the team to a brief lead in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 consecutive points.

"I was actually surprised, especially with three-pointers. That's not what he's really known for, is mostly his inside game, and it's going to be harder for him to guard now," Tarell Johnson said.

However, he was pulled from the game in the final minutes, a decision Coach Alvin Gentry said was made by the training staff, because of his knee surgery three months ago.

On an ESPN podcast Thursday morning, Gentry backed the decision.

"It was tough to do, it was tough for him. He did not want to hear that, but I think for us, obviously we're looking long-term, and it was tough for him because he really felt like he could help us win that game, and he probably could have," Gentry said.

It's something called load management, to increase longevity of athletes.

"In the last few years, they've gotten strategic about how many minutes their star players should play. Even people who aren't injured, to kind of increase their longetivity, as well as increase the chance of them playing in the Playoffs and Championships. So, somebody who's injured, it's even more increased how strict they are about their time limits," LCMC New Orleans East Hospital Sports Medicine Director Russell Russo said.

While some fans wonder whether it was necessary to bench Williamson during his streak, Russo said there's no clear answer.

“There’s no sports medicine textbook that says if you have this meniscus injury, you can only play for 20 minutes for five games and then play more. It’s a judgment call, and it’s not only based on the doctor patient relationship at all. So, coaching, agents and a lot of complex decisions that go on behind the scenes,” Russo said.

Those who weren't in the Smoothie King Center for Wednesday's game said they want to go Friday after Williamson's electrifying performance.

“I’m planning on going. If i’m off from work on time, I plan on going,” Shawn Griffin said.

The team ended up losing to the Spurs by four points, but will be playing the Nuggets Friday night, when Zion is expected to play again.

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