Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson has been frequenting the team’s New Orleans facility – the Ochsner Sports Performance Center – during the NBA hiatus, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Andrew Lopez. The Pelicans organization is hopeful that the prized 2019 No. 1 draft pick, now fully rehabilitated from an injury that cost him much of the season, will be able to help catapult the squad to a playoff berth.
The Pelicans, currently occupying the No. 10 Western Conference playoff seed with a 28-36 record, are 3.5 games behind the 32-33 Grizzlies, the present No. 8 seed.
“Those reps against the best players on a bigger stage will be meaningful for Zion certainly as a 19-year-old,” Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said noted. “I think it’s important for those guys to play some meaningful-slash-playoff basketball.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Due to soft attendance numbers during the 2019/20 season, the Grizzlies may be able to exercise an “early termination” option in the team’s lease on its publicly-funded home arena, the FedEx Forum, according to Geoff Calkins of the Daily Memphian. Team owner Robert Pera and local municipalities are anticipated to begin appraising various possible courses of action.
- Since Willie Cauley-Stein opted out of the NBA season restart in Orlando, the Mavericks‘ depth at center has taken a hit, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. With the athletic center out of commission, Maxi Kleber will soak up most of the minutes as the prime backup for Kristaps Porzingis. 7’4″ Boban Marjonovic may seem some additional run. The team agreed to a deal with Trey Burke, a point guard, in Cauley-Stein’s stead.
- Stalwart Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, a two-time NBA All-Defensive First-Teamer with the club, signed a controversially large five-year, $126MM contract with New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. William Guillory of The Athletic looks back on the negotiations between the two sides on that mammoth deal.