Zion Willamson's limited minutes in his first two NBA games may be disappointing to New Orleans Pelicans fans, but head coach Alvin Gentry is calling for patience as the club manages the rookie phenom's workload.
"It's frustrating right now because I think with him on the floor, obviously we're pretty good, but we also got to be sensible in our whole approach to it. We got to understand, as I said right from the start, we got to think long term here," Gentry told ESPN's Andrew Lopez following the Pelicans' 113-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
Williamson was pulled with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter in his debut Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs after scoring 17 consecutive points as part of an efficient 22-point effort in 18 minutes. The Duke product's playing time increased to just under 21 minutes Friday, but the Pelicans followed a similar script by taking the 19-year-old off the court to close the game.
Gentry hinted this particular rotational tactic, which is based on advice from the team's medical staff, may last a little while longer but certainly isn't permanent.
"It's the way we've decided, it's best for him right now and that's what we're going to stick to," Gentry said. "I know everybody gets real excited, and I hear every night that I'm the dumbest coach in the world about why would I take the guy out in the game of the last five minutes or six minutes? So I'll live with that knowing that we're doing the right thing."
Gentry added: "We will not deviate from that (plan) at all. If it will be a few more games, then that's what it's going to be, and we just gotta understand."
Williamson was once again efficient in his second NBA appearance, registering 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting along with six rebounds, a game-best plus-16 rating, and a forceful first career block.