Pelicans show chemistry with Zion to open preseason with win over Bulls
First round draft pick Dyson Daniels commanded the offense in crucial minutes down the stretch
CHICAGO (WVUE) - The world had been waiting for over a year to see Zion Williamson return to the court in an NBA jersey and it finally happened Tuesday (Oct. 4) night on the road in Chicago in a resounding way.
For their preseason opener against the Bulls, Pelicans head coach Willie Green said he wanted his starters to see no more than 20 minutes of action on the floor. In 15 total minutes of play, Zion turned in an efficient stat line of 13 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, and 1 stl.
The former No. 1 overall pick also played in-flow with his teammates as they cruised for most of the night to a 129-125 win over the Bulls.
“I was most excited about playing the game I love and being out there with my teammates,” Zion said after the game.
In his preseason debut, Zion looked lean, fast, high energy, and showed his familiar skills for court vision and quick decision-making.
“Couldn’t show them everything,” Williamson told ESPN postgame after the win. “But just kind of getting a feel for it again. Find spots. Picking and choosing where I want to attack. But, I got a new team since the last time I played. I’m still learning some of the guys. Today we were able to click. I feel like if we can do that for the rest of these preseason games, I feel we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Only five players remain on the current Pelicans roster that were there the last season Zion played without restrictions. Two of those players, Brandon Ingram and Kira Lewis Jr., did not play due to injuries. Ingram’s injury is not considered serious as he was a game-time decision before tip-off on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t just Zion that looked impressive in the win. As a whole, the Pelicans played with a steady uptempo pace while moving the ball and communicating as if they were in midseason form. Guard Devonte Graham led the Pelicans in scoring with 21 pts, producing in a bench role. Backup big man Jaxson Hayes led the team in minutes with 26 and in that time he scored 14 pts, 6 rebs, 3 ast, 1 block, and 1 steal. Hayes inserted high energy onto the floor coming off of the bench, showing good activity on the defensive end and on fast breaks.
Nearly every player that checked in for New Orleans had a positive impact and the team seemed to do what they wanted for most of the night. At halftime, the Pelicans led 70-53.
“We played our style,” Coach Green said. “We got stops. We shared the basketball. We played fast. We played with force.”
For Chicago, DeMar DeRozan led the way with 21 points. Zach LaVine scored 10 points.
Dyson Daniels seals the win
First-round draft pick Dyson Daniels played much of the fourth quarter as both teams rolled out their reserve units. With about four and half minutes left to go, the Bulls went on a run and the Pelicans lost the lead, trailing as much as 117-113. Green left the keys of the offense in control of the reserve point guard and he delivered.
Despite his shooting struggles, Daniels kept chipping away until his team regained the lead. Daniels made two floaters in the lane and a 3-pointer, as well as a crucial rebound down the stetch.
Herb Jones was in the starting line but left the game with a rib contusion.
The Pelicans return to action Friday in the Smoothie King Center, hosting Detroit for their second preseason game. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
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