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Pelicans Getting Crushed For How They Handled Zion Williamson Tonight

Zion Williamson on the court in his NBA debut.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 22: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Smoothie King Center on January 22, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Zion Williamson looked strong in his return to the NBA court tonight. So strong, in fact, that many are wondering why he wasn't allowed to do more.

Williamson left the bubble two weeks ago to attend to a family emergency. When he rejoined the New Orleans Pelicans, he had to quarantine for a few days as a precautionary measure.

Combine that with the fact the Pels were not pushing Zion too much--because he was coming off a knee injury--when the regular season stopped in March, it's not surprising that his minutes were limited tonight. In fact, this was the plan coming into the opening game of the NBA restart in Orlando.

However, it wasn't just how many minutes Zion Williamson played that caused a stir. It was the minutes that he didn't play. Despite scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 15 minutes, Williamson was not on the court at all down the stretch.

The Pelicans lost to the Utah Jazz 106-104 on two late Rudy Gobert free throws, with Williamson sitting out the last 7:19. Benching the standout rookie in crunch time has opened New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry up to a world of criticism.

Look, Zion Williamson is the Pelicans' prized possession, and they've been taking a careful approach with him ever since he made his NBA debut. But to bring him back in time for this game and not use him when it matters most doesn't make sense. Gentry had an explanation for his decision-making in the post-game media session.

If you knew how many minutes Zion was supposed to play, you might have wanted to save some of them for the end of the game.

New Orleans entered tonight 3.5 games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. When you're competing for a playoff spot, every game is a must-win. You have to play your best players.

That means giving Zion a shot in crunch time, minutes limit be damned.