New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson couldn't hide his happiness after playing a game without minutes restrictions. Williamson, who was selected by the Pelicans at No. 1 in the 2019 NBA draft, missed a good number of games in his rookie season.
In those games he did appear, Williamson was put on minutes restriction as the Pelicans were extremely cautios with the Duke product. On Monday night, the Pelicans kicked off their preseason with a 114-92 win over the Miami Heat and Williamson scored a game-high 26 points and also had 11 rebounds.
"It felt great to be out there for extended stretches," Williamson admitted after the game, per ESPN. "It was great to experience that again."
Williamson felt a sort of a joy and relief after the game
Williams played 33 minutes against the Heat and no one was happier than him.
"It was a different feeling. I can't even lie," Williamson said. "It was a different feeling for sure. I think I was only able to finish a game maybe three, maybe four times last year. But it was a great feeling.
When the clock struck zero, I was almost like, 'Wow, it's been a while.' " Williamson also put up a great effort on the defensive side of the floor, grabbing eight rebounds. "He hasn't really been doing much of that in practice, to be honest, and it wasn't a strength last year," coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"For him to be able to rebound the ball the way he did on the defensive end was good." Williamson struggled with his free-throw shooting in his rookie season but against the Heat he shot 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
"The free throws, I feel like I'm going to get fouled a lot," Williamson said. "That's free money. I gotta make that." Williamson has been working hard on his free-throw shooting in recent time and he is happy that it's showing on the court.
"Me and Coach Vinson have been putting in a lot of work every day in practice, free throws, working on the jumper, working on everything involving my shot," Williamson said. "That's been really helpful up to this point."
The Pelicans missed the playoffs last season and Williamson is determined to help the win games. "That's why I play basketball," Williamson said, "to play a lot of minutes and help my team win."