Southwest Notes: Zion, J. Jackson, Belinelli, Cash

After playing limited minutes and sitting in crunch time during the Pelicans‘ first two games – both losses – Zion Williamson logged 25 minutes and was a key contributor down the stretch as New Orleans closed out a Monday win over Memphis. After the game, Williamson told ESPN’s Malika Andrews that he “felt alive again,” per Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it’s just different in a bad way when I’m on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there’s nothing I can do to help my team win,” Williamson said. “So I said I felt alive — it was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win.”

In addition to Williamson’s contributions, the Pelicans also got 24 points and some key late baskets from Brandon Ingram, while Josh Hart chipped in 15 points and Lonzo Ball was a game-best +15. The performances prompted head coach Alvin Gentry to praise his young core after the win.

“When you have two really young players (Williamson and Ingram) like that who stepped up for you, and Josh Hart, you know, Josh is a very young kid, too,” Gentry said. “I think if you look at it, we have a good, young nucleus of players along with some of the veteran guys we have.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores the impact that losing Jaren Jackson Jr. will have on the Grizzlies‘ push to secure a playoff spot. As O’Connor writes, Memphis is well ahead of schedule in its rebuild and should be pleased with the season as a whole, but there’s a chance it will end on a “decidedly sour note.”
  • Speaking of Jackson, he’s staying at the Walt Disney World campus for now, according to Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via ESPN’s Malika Andrews). However, Jackson may need to leave at some point for treatment and/or rehab work related to his meniscus tear, Jenkins acknowledged.
  • Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, who sprained his left ankle during the team’s first game of the restart last week, is active today after missing a pair of games, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at Pelicans VP of basketball operations and team development Swin Cash, who is the first Black woman to hold such a high-ranking basketball ops position for an NBA franchise.
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