National Basketball Association

In Need of Zion

July 30

The New Orleans Pelicans make their return to the court against the Utah Jazz on Thursday, resuming their quest to earn a Western Conference playoff berth.

And after some early questions about whether they'd have their star rookie tonight, it appears Zion Williamson will be available, if in limited minutes.

After departing the Orlando bubble on July 16 for family-related reasons, Williamson retruned on July 24 and was subject to a 4-day quarantine before he was allowed to rejoin the team.

He took the court for practice on July 28 after completing the quarantine and passing his required COVID-19 tests.

Williamson spoke on being labeled a game-time decision after practice.

"I think me and my team are looking for what is best for me, my future, and being safe. But you know me, I just want to hoop, that's how I am. I'm never going to change, I'm going to want to hoop, simple as that."

If the numbers are any indication, it would be in New Orleans' best interest if Williamson is available to play on Thursday and in as many games as possible.

Williamson missed the first 45 games of the season recovering from a torn meniscus, but in only 19 games played, his impact on the Pelicans' offense has been undeniable.

He is the team's second-leading scorer (23.6), as well as their second-leading rebounder (6.8). And Williamson's individual numbers have translated into on-court success for the Big Easy as well.

The Pelicans scored 114.4 points per game before Williamson joined the lineup in January, but that number rose to 120.1 with him in the lineup.

The team's rebounding numbers rose from 45.9 per game to 49.6, its free throw attempts rose from 22.2 to 25.5, and its assists per game rose from 25.5 to 30.3.

Zion has also made an impact defensively, with the Pelicans' defensive rating going from 112.7 without him to 109.2 with him.

In the 19 games Williamson has played, the Pelicans are 10-9. In their first 45 games, they were 18-27.

Williamson's impact has been monumental. 

We'll see how often he gets to make that impact beginning Thursday.


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