Southwest Notes: Zion, W. Green, Spurs, Grizzlies

The schedule of nationally televised games for the upcoming season indicates that league officials are still skeptical about the prospect of a full year from Zion Williamson, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. Not counting games on NBA TV, the Pelicans will play in front of a national audience just 11 times — six on TNT and five on ESPN — which ranks 13th in the league. New Orleans was featured 10 times last season, Guillory notes, and 20 times in Williamson’s rookie season.

Williamson, who signed a max contract extension last month, is reported to be healthy after missing all of last season following surgery on his right foot. However, his physical condition will always remain a concern after he managed just 85 combined games in his first three seasons.

Guillory notes that the league can always flex the Pelicans into more national games if they get off to a strong start, but both they and Williamson have a lot to prove before that might happen. Even though New Orleans is coming off an exciting playoff run, the team was only 36-46 during the regular season and doesn’t have a lot of national appeal without its star player.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The way Williamson is utilized will be among the most important questions for the Pelicans, per Christian Clark of This will be the first chance for Willie Green to coach Williamson, who was a primary ball-handler under Stan Van Gundy. Other topics Clark identifies as important are the battle for backup point guard minutes, the roles for Larry Nance Jr. and Jaxson Hayes and whether Trey Murphy is ready for more minutes in his second season.
  • The Spurs will play four home games in sites other than the AT&T Center, the team announced in a press release. In addition to hosting the Heat in Mexico City on December 17, San Antonio will return to its former home in the Alamodome on January 13 and will play a pair of games in Austin on April 6 and 8. The games are part of the team’s 50th anniversary celebration. “Hosting these four games is part of our vision to purposefully engage and celebrate our entire Spurs following from Mexico to Austin, while fostering the next generation of fans,” said RC Buford, CEO for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.
  • The Grizzlies will be on national TV a franchise-record 18 times, notes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. They will be part of the NBA’s traditional showcases on both Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Day.
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