Pelicans still adjusting to Zion’s return

Pelicans still adjusting to Zion’s return
New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson, right, shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman, center, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Cleveland. Derrick Favors, left, watches. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


After a disappointing loss to Houston, it feels like the Pelicans are taking two steps forward and one step backward. They’ve been better over the last week with Zion Williamson, winning three straight against the Celtics (without Jayson Tatum), Cavaliers and Grizzlies, but still unable to put it all together to beat elite competition like the Rockets.

“We’re learning,” says shooting guard Josh Hart. “Obviously, a lot of teams go through this phase doing the preseason and the first week or two of the season. We’re going through it in game 50.”

Turnovers, specifically, were main issue on Sunday in Houston, but at times, was so was the offense. Most notable were head coach Alvin Gentry’s comments after the game, calling for Zion to get more touches. That means there are moments when the rookie may have to be more aggressive.

“With him, expectations are so high that everybody forgets he’s a 19-year old kid,” says Gentry. “He’s played five games or whatever it is in the NBA now. So it’s a learning process for him too.”

Assuming a large role in keeping Pelicans offense rolling is also point guard Lonzo Ball. And as a facilitator, he’s not just responsible for making sure Zion gets the necessary touches, but the rest of the play-makers on this talented team as well.

“I’ve just got to manage it a little better,” says Ball. “I’m trying to get B.I. his shots, Jrue (Holiday) his touches. And now Zion’s back so he needs the ball too. So just like you said, I’m trying to balance it the best way I can and make sure everybody’s happy.”

“He’s not going to go out there and say, ‘Throw the ball to me every time,'" says Gentry. “That’s just not who he is. And he’s always going to defend his teammates. That just makes him who he is right now.”

Gentry says that eventually Zion will grow into the player that knows how and when to be more aggressive, but it can’t be rushed. That process may not help their playoff push, but his development the right way should pay off in the long run.

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