Rusty Costanza/Associated Press
After he was limited in minutes throughout his time in the NBA bubble, New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson said “it felt great” to log more than 33 minutes on the floor during the team’s 114-92 win over the Miami Heat in Monday’s preseason game.
“It was a different feeling. I can’t even lie,” Williamson said, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “It was a different feeling for sure. I think I was only able to finish a game maybe three, maybe four times last year. But it was a great feeling. When the clock struck zero, I was almost like, ‘Wow, it’s been a while.'”
In the league’s bubble, Williamson was limited to an average of 20.7 minutes per game, bottoming out at 14:11 in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Aug. 1.
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, Williamson was limited in the bubble based on guidance from the team’s medical staff since he had only practiced in full-squad situations a handful of times before taking the court in a loss to the Utah Jazz, in which he tallied just 15 minutes.
According to Lopez, Williamson finished 11 of his 24 games last season, though the Pelicans were 3-8 in those outings.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Williamson played 10:19 of the first quarter Monday, which was more time on the floor than he logged in any first quarters and more than he played in all but three quarters during 2019-20.
The rest of the Pelicans’ young stars, including Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, also tallied more than 30 minutes during Monday’s win. Williamson racked up 26 points and 11 rebounds while hitting 10 of his 11 free throws.
As an NBA sophomore, the former Duke standout is hoping to contribute more regularly throughout the season, which opens for the Pelicans on Dec. 23 against the Toronto Raptors.
“That’s why I play basketball,” he said, “to play a lot of minutes and help my team win.”