For months, basketball fans everywhere waited for Zion Williamson to make his NBA debut. Now that the young star is back in action, it’s safe to say he’s living up to the hype. New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry isn’t happy with everything he’s seeing, though.
Every coach has to get the best out of his players, whether they’re benchwarmers of generational stars. With that in mind, Gentry has one specific idea to help Williamson shine.
Zion Williamson is making up for lost time
After his breakout season at Duke, Zion Williamson was supposed to be a surefire NBA star. While injuries have delayed things a bit, the young forward is already making an impact.
Since returning from knee surgery, Zion has played six games. Although he’s still playing somewhat limited minutes, Williamson is still making an impact. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per outing. The big man is still a force in the paint, but he’s impressing with his energy and effort, too; after months on the sidelines, the forward appears to be making up for lost time and giving every game 110%.
Beyond the usual plaudits, Williamson has even received praise from Michael Jordan. His Airness highlighted Zion’s passion for the game, saying the “talented young man” is great for basketball on the whole. No one, it seems, is inclined to disagree.
Alvin Gentry’s wants his team to feed Zion Williamson down low
Zion Williamson is undeniably talented, but even the best players can’t score on every single possession. New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, however, wants to ensure that his star gets the ball as much as possible.
“We didn’t execute and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Gentry explained after his team’s recent loss to the Houston Rockets. “Being said, Zion can’t go four minutes without touching the basketball and that’s on me. That’s something that I’ve got to make sure that will never happen again. So I take responsibility for that. And if we’re not gonna give it to him and not gonna execute, then we gotta have different people in the game. That’s on me also.”
Genty also said that Zion’s time away from the team didn’t contribute to the lack of touches. “Nah, you gotta throw him the damn basketball,” he continued. “I mean it has nothing to do with playing together, figuring it out. He’s got an advantage and we gotta find a way to get him the basketball down there. So I’m not buying the playing together or figuring out anything like that. We have to have him have touches in the fourth quarter.”
Regardless of Alvin Gentry’s insistence, some adjustment is to be expected
Alvin Gentry insisted that chemistry had nothing to do with Zion Williamson’s lack of touches. While the coach undeniably knows his team better than any outsider, he might be missing the forest through the trees.
Although it might not take a wealth of experience or a genius-level IQ to realize Zion should touch the ball, things happen quickly on the court. During high-pressure moments, players will rely on instinct and comfort-levels to get things done; even Tom Brady struggled when he was tasked with throwing to unfamiliar receivers. Williamson and his Pelicans teammates are yet to develop that bond.
Gentry is right about his responsibilities as a coach, though. Chemistry or not, the Pelicans need to actively incorporate Zion in their offense; some extra game-planning should help ease the transition.
Thankfully, giving a star player the basketball shouldn’t be too hard to execute. If nothing else, Zion Williamson and basketball fans everywhere will appreciate the extra touches.