Rusty Costanza/Associated Press
The NBA is reportedly working to “make sure” rookie sensation Zion Williamson and his New Orleans Pelicans are able to participate in the 2019-20 postseason should the campaign resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Friday on Get Up:
“One of the things I’ve been hearing as I’ve talked to people in the league is, the league is gonna set up this playoff plan to make sure Zion Williamson is involved. … Paranoia is at the top of the list with anything in the NBA. … They’re always paranoid about everything—’the league is screwing me, and they’re helping that guy.’ In this case, there’s a number of different reasons why the league would want to have 20 or 24 teams, a number of different reasons to get extra games. But most of those scenarios include making sure, having Zion Williamson in the postseason.”
Here’s a look at Windhorst’s full comments about the NBA’s return-to-play plans:
Williamson didn’t make his NBA debut until Jan. 22, three months into the regular season, after recovering from knee surgery in October.
It didn’t take long for him to showcase his game-changing talent. He averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 58.9 percent from the field across 19 appearances before play was suspended in March. The Pelicans posted a 10-9 record in those games.
While modest, the .526 winning percentage with a healthy Williamson would have ranked eighth in the Western Conference if compiled over the full season.
NBA play was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the league is discussing ways to resume, and hopefully complete, the season. It’s unclear whether it will finish the regular season, utilize a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff teams or jump straight into a normal postseason.
In April, Williamson told TNT’s Ernie Johnson in a Twitter interview he was ready to roll if the season were given a green light (via ESPN’s Andrew Lopez):
“Honestly, I’m ready now. I’ve been staying in shape, working on myself and just staying ready. You never know when the time is going to come when they’re going to say, ‘All right, let’s resume.’ I don’t want to have to look around at my teammates and say, ‘Sorry, guys, I’m not ready.’ So I’m staying ready for my teammates.“
The Pelicans, who sit 10th in the Western Conference, would be dangerous if given a chance to compete in a playoff environment.
Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday represent a terrific, emerging core that’s surrounded by solid role players, including JJ Redick, Josh Hart and Derrick Favors.
New Orleans suffered two single-digit losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the NBA’s chief championship contenders, in the final weeks before play was stopped. It showed the team was capable of hanging with the league’s best teams.