NBA: Pelicans' Zion Williamson plays first game since January | Inquirer Sports

NBA: Pelicans’ Zion Williamson plays first game since January

/ 02:29 PM October 11, 2023

Zion Williamson Pelicans NBA

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) goes to the basket to slam dunk over Orlando Magic center Moritz Wagner (21) in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in 16 minutes during the Orlando Magic’s 122-105 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the preseason opener for both clubs on Tuesday night.

It was Williamson’s first appearance in a game since he injured his right hamstring in Philadelphia last Jan. 2. After missing his first two shots, he scored his first points on a crowd-pleasing, two-handed dunk. He later added a 13-foot running floater, a short turnaround and a layup to go with four free throws.

“He looked good. He’s unstoppable. So, he’s going to do what he wants out there on the court. It’s just a matter of us getting our spacing right, playing with the right pace, tempo, getting stops and getting out and running,” teammate CJ McCollum said. “But he’s going to figure it out. He’s going to be successful. We just got to make sure we continue to push the pace.”


“Obviously, we want our best players to be able to play every night and this is a step in that direction. And it’s an opportunity for the fans to see the work that he’s put in — the work that we’ve put in collectively to try to be better this season.”

The Orlando starters played the first few minutes of the second half. Wendell Carter Jr. finished with 18 points in 19 minutes. Paolo Banchero scored 12, highlighted by his driving, one-handed dunk between Williamson and Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas. Banchero also grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Eleventh overall pick Jett Howard (Michigan coach Juwan Howard’s son) scored eight points for the Magic, and No. 6 Anthony Black added two points. Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said prior to opening tip that Joe Ingles was getting a veteran night off.


Jordan Hawkins (UConn), who was New Orleans’ top pick (14th overall) this summer, made his first 3-point attempt and finished with nine points on 4-of-14 shooting. Former Ohio State star E.J. Liddell, who was the Pelicans’ second-round pick in 2022 but had a major knee injury missed all of his rookie season, played 17 minutes and scored two points.


Luka Doncic played less than five minutes, scoring nine points in Dallas’ loss against his former club Real Madrid.


Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 21 points for the Mavs, which also lost its two preseason games against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week in Abu Dhabi.

Doncic returned to Spain to a warm reception in a preseason game, receiving a standing ovation by the home fans and being honored by his former teammates.

The “Luuukaaa” chants were back in the Spanish capital five years after the star guard left for the NBA, and the Slovenian looked moved while watching his past highlights on the big screen before the game.

Facundo Campazzo, who was signed and waived by Dallas last year, led Madrid’s late rally and finished with 20 points for the hosts. Doncic’s former teammate Sergio Llull and Vincent Poirier scored 19 points each for the Spanish club. Doncic went 3 for 6 with one assist, scoring all of his points with 3-pointers.


Trent Forrest converted a three-point play with 1.1 seconds remaining to rally Atlanta over visiting Cleveland.

Forrest was fouled by Emoni Bates, a second-round selection in this year’s draft, after Bates sank a 3-pointer with 11.1 seconds left to give the Cavaliers the lead.

Forrest led the Hawks with 13 points. Trae Young and Onyeka Okongwu scored 12 apiece. Kobe Bufkin, the 15th overall selection this year, scored nine on 4-for-11 shooting — 1 of 6 from distance.

Max Strus, a playoff starter for Miami last season, opened the scoring with a 3-pointer for his first points with Cleveland. Isaac Okoro topped the Cavs with 19 points.


Tyler Herro scored 22 points, 18th overall pick Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 13 points and seven boards and Miami held off visiting Charlotte in the opener for both teams.

No. 2 pick Brandon Miller rattled in a jumper with 33.7 seconds left in the first quarter for his first bucket for the Hornets. Miller finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting. He missed all four of his 3s, adding three rebounds and three assists. Late first-rounder Nick Smith Jr. had 11 points and five boards. LaMelo Ball, in his first action since February, totaled 17 points and seven assists in 22 minutes.

Jimmy Butler sat out for Miami. Cole Swider sank 5 of 9 from 3-point range, scoring 17. Thomas Bryant pitched in with 15 points and eight rebounds.


Alperen Sengun finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists to guide Houston over visiting Indiana in the Rockets’ opener.

Veteran guard Fred VanVleet, who signed a three-year, $130-million deal with Houston, scored 10 points in his debut for the Rockets. He made 3 of 11 shots, 2 of 6 from beyond the arc, with four assists in 25 minutes. No. 4 pick Amen Thompson struggled in his first game, scoring nine points on 1-for-9 shooting. Thompson made 5 of 6 foul shots and grabbed nine rebounds. Cam Whitmore, the 20th overall pick, totaled 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting with three 3-pointers. Jabari Smith Jr. scored 14 with seven rebounds.

Aaron Nesmith led Indiana (0-2) with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Bennedict Mathurin had 14 points, while Jalen Smith sank all five of his shots, scoring 11. Indiana first-rounder Ben Sheppard also scored 11. He was 3 for 7 from distance with four boards and four assists.

Houston’s Dillon Brooks was ejected 4:33 into the game for a flagrant foul 2 to the groin of Daniel Theis.


Kyle Kuzma, coming off the best scoring season of his career at 21.2 points, scored 22 points and Jordan Poole added 18 points with four 3-pointers in his debut for Washington.

Danilo Gallinari, playing in his first exhibition since he tore the ACL in his left knee while playing for Italy, also scored 15 points — in just 16 minutes.

No. 7 pick Bilal Coulibaly made his debut for the Mystics and scored his first points on a dunk after a steal near midcourt midway through the first quarter. He finished with five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

The overmatched Taipans had nine available players due to sickness.


Desmond Bane scored 21 points with four 3-pointers, Jaren Jackson Jr. added 17 points to help Memphis to its second straight preseason win.

Jae Crowder led Milwaukee with 14 points. Pat Connaughton added 13 points, Malik Beasley had 11 and Brook Lopez 10.


Defending champion Denver played stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in a win over Phoenix in the Nugget’s opener.

They both played 18 minutes and combined for 21 points.

Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal all sat out after playing in the opener for the Suns.


Russell Westbrook made his return to the city that drafted him, when the SuperSonics made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft. The team left for Oklahoma City before Westbrook got a chance to suit up in Seattle.

Westbrook and Los Angeles battled Utah at Climate Pledge Arena — with the Sonics’ championship-winning coach Lenny Wilkens in attendance. Former Seattle Storm star Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe also sat courtside.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Paul George was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting and Westbrook was scoreless in 15 minutes.

Jordan Clarkson scored 12 points for the Jazz. Lauri Markkanen, who emerged as surprise star in helping Utah contend for a playoff spot until the final week of the regular season, had 16 points and eight rebounds.


Scoot Henderson, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, finished with seven points and six assists in a debut start and Portland cruised past New Zealand in the Blazers’ opener.

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Henderson made 3 of 6 shots with a 3-pointer, playing 19 minutes. Kris Murray, the 23rd overall pick, scored three points with five rebounds in 18 minutes. Anfernee Simons scored all 14 of his points in the first half to lead Portland to a 48-39 lead.

Rayan Rupert, the Blazers’ second-round selection this year, is playing for the Breakers. Rupert scored seven points in 21 minutes off the bench.

TAGS: NBA, Zion Williamson

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