David Griffin on Zion Williamson’s comeback: “We won’t do a minutes restriction”

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans Executive Vice President, David Griffin talked about Zion Williamson ahead of the team’s Primetime game against the LA Clippers on Saturday.

Is it too soon to know what Zion’s minutes restrictions will be once he comes back?

DG: “We won’t do a minutes restriction. This is something that in general terms we philosophically disagree on I think. It’s not about a hard number. It’s about what the bursts need to look like. It’s what you’re measuring him by. So, when you return to play from a serious injury, it’s not going to be a number. He’s going to play in a limited number of bursts and you’re going to judge all of those fairly subjectively in terms of what he looks like.”

The team’s playing a lot better. So, it’s almost like making a mid-season acquisition getting a player of Zion’s calibre in here. How can he completely help the team if he’s healthy and able to do everything with the bursts?

DG: “Certainly if we’re healthy around that return, it’d be great. I think you’ve seen when we’re healthy we’re pretty good. We can lock in and play very well against some very good teams. And unfortunately Derrick Favors’ absence is the one we’ve noticed the most profoundly. It’s because Fave – in addition to Zion – takes away two starting front court players. So, your depth in the front court becomes problematic. But again, if we can get guys back sort of one by one and have a full crew around him, I think it’ll be a lot of fun to see.”

Can you measure the anxiousness of trying to get Zion back between the players and coaches?

DG: “I don’t think our players have anxiousness at all because they know when it’s time he’s going to come back. I think there’s a great deal of trust in that sense relative to the players. I think from a coaching perspective the anxiousness has been more related to the fact that they had to play a game the other night without six of our top eight rotational players you thought coming into the season.  So, I think that’s really complicated from a coaching perspective. So, certainly their anxiety level’s a little higher. They have to find a way to doctor up what we have and win a game in that particular situation. And obviously they did. Because I think the team has a great deal of grit and toughness that they’ve learned now what it takes to win. We’re sort of manifesting winning habits. But the coaching anxiety has certainly been higher because they never know who they’re going to have from day-to-day.”

Once Zion is back, what’s it going to look like the rest of the season managing his minutes and making sure he’s healthy all the way until the end?

DG: “I think from a sustaining health standpoint you’re certainly going to treat him differently. His return to play protocol will be such that I don’t think we’re going to want him to play back-to-back’s by way of example. Will just have to see what it looks like. Again, subjectively there are some things that come into play in this. His mechanics are a big part of that. And watching the way he’s going about his business is going to have a great deal to do with what we think from day-to-day. It’s not like we can objectively say what’s going on in there. So, we’re just going to have to judge what it looks like. But i really believe very strongly he’s a radically improved physical version of himself in ways that, frankly, we took the extra time to ensure.”

NBA Saturdays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 7.00pm every weekend. This week on 18 January the New Orleans Pelicans host the LA Clippers on Sky Sports Arena from 8.30pm.