Zion's NBA Debut

22 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, in 18 minutes.

Jim Rome
January 23, 2020 - 9:22 am
Zion Williamson

USA Today

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After months of waiting and anticipating, Zion Day finally arrived yesterday. And it was amazing. Not the first three quarters of it, mind you. Those were careful and cautious, as you’d expect with a player who was making his NBA regular season debut after knee surgery and had not played in a meaningful game since March. But there were still moments, glimpses… like his pass to Brandon Ingram.

And his first basket.

But really the star of the first half wasn’t Zion, it was this Pelicans fan, who was doing absolutely incredible work when the Spurs went to the foul line. Check out this yodeling for LaMarcus Aldridge. 

LA-MARR-CUSSSS.

You want to talk about a star being born, that was an incredible moment. That guy immediately put himself in the category of previous crowd mic legends like the “We did it! We did it!” Guy.

And the “Kevin-Kevin-KEVVVIIINNNNNNN!!!!” Screamer. 

But aside from that legendary moment, most of the first three quarters was filled with people complaining about Zion and his minutes. 

To which I would say – what did you expect? Of course it was going to be short bursts. We knew that going in. Alvin Gentry said that in the lead up to the game. 

Did you think he was going to go without playing in a meaningful game for nearly 10 months and immediately get forty minutes and go 20 and 20? Hell no.

He’s missed half the season. You don’t just shove him off the high dive in the first game, even if that’s what the fans, twitter and television would like. 

And for all the dopes who were complaining that he wasn’t playing long enough or acting like the Pelicans didn’t know that if he played more minutes, he’d get into more of a rhythm, pipe down. 

The Pelicans have a plan and they’re working it. They know that last night was never going to be about last night, it was always going to be about the rest of the season and the rest of his career. It’s about a recovery plan and sticking to that plan, no matter how much it pisses other people off. As always, if Alvin Gentry listens to the people in the stands, he’ll be one of the people in the stands, in time at all.   

Still, the whining and complaining continues. First it was annoying. Then it became insulting. And in the end it was straight stupid when the same people who were doing it started to say Zion was overrated. Over hyped. Well done. Solid take. Especially since it was a take based on Zion getting maybe 12 minutes of NBA action.

And then, the fourth quarter happened. Specifically the middle of the fourth quarter happened. It started with an assist from Zion to Josh Hart.

Then Zion doing this.

Rebound, push the ball up the court, and find a teammate for the bucket. But go back to the rebound itself for a moment, because that was a 7’1 guy that he grabbed the rebound over. A 7’1 grown ass man with better position. And a teenager just bodied him, out-jumped him, got the rebound, and started the break.

And that started The Run. Because those two assists were followed by this.

Zion for three

Zion on an alley-oop.

Zion for three again. 

What the bleep?!?

And during that run, Alvin Gentry had a sub ready to go in for Zion, but the game wouldn’t stop. And the moment wouldn’t stop. Zion for three, again!

At this point, the roof was about to come off the building. It was absolutely incredible. Three for three from three are you kidding me? 

Then Gentry appeared to be calling for a timeout to get him out of the game, but Lonzo Ball ran through that stop sign to set him up for this for one more 3.

Stop it. Just stop it. That was incredible. 

Four for four from three, for a guy who isn’t known as a three-point shooter. 17 points in just over 3 minutes. In an NBA game. Correction, in his NBA debut.

Took the Pelicans from down double digits to giving them the lead before he left the game. He finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, in 18 minutes. 

Is that any good? You still want to come in here with you great takes about how he’s overrated? 

I’m not saying he’s a Hall of Famer after one game, but he gave you a glimpse of what he could be. And that look was awesome. That was an electric moment, and it didn’t even have an electric dunk in it.  

Jrue Holiday said he was hyped watching that shooting display from deep. "After the first one, I was like, 'All right, cool.' Then the second one came, and I was like, 'All right, boy, you been practicing!' And then the third one, from that point on, the energy was crazy. We've seen him do this since high school. This is what he does. As exciting as it was, is it really that much of a surprise?"

It’s a great point by Holiday, nobody should’ve been surprised by this, because we’ve seen him for a while now. But at the same time, a guy making his NBA debut in January after knee surgery should not make it look that easy. But Zion did. And he’s barely scratching the surface.

Don’t get it twisted. There will be rough nights. And times where he looks like a rookie, but I’m not interested in hearing from people talking about his five turnovers last night. Or the fact that New Orleans lost.

Nor am I looking for people blaming Alvin Gentry for taking him out of the game in the fourth quarter. And refusing to put him back in when the crowd was chanting for him. I know it felt like they could’ve won last night if he stayed in the game, but the Pelicans have a plan and that plan is about working Zion into game shape and being cautious.  And not risking his future so they can win his first game. It’s the right plan. And I respect it.

We got a taste of the Zion Experience last night and it was incredible. It was worth the wait. He didn’t just live up to the hype, he smashed it. And in a league of freakish talent, there may be another like him; he may be the one of one.

Because for the life of me, I still cannot wrap my head around Zion hitting four three’s in his first NBA game.  It really was incredible.