NEW YORK, N.Y. – Zion Williamson is set to make his NBA debut, which will bring plenty of excitement to New Orleans.
It will also bring some challenges to coach Alvin Gentry.
That's what Philadelphia coach Brett Brown learned from his experiences when the wait for a franchise star was finally over.
“It’s always an excitement for me," Brown said. “There is things that happen that as a coach as I remember ... that impacts kind of everything."
Brown had to wait out injury-delayed NBA debuts for both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid, the No. 3 pick in 2014, missed what would have been his first two NBA seasons. Simmons, the top pick in 2016, sat out his first season. Both players had foot injuries.
When they did return, at least it was at the start of the season. When Williamson debuts Wednesday against San Antonio in a game that was added to the national TV schedule, the Pelicans will be trying to fit the No. 1 pick in at midseason to a team that has been playing well lately without him. And Gentry will have to deal with decisions about minutes restrictions.
“You know, there's a national spotlight that comes in, there’s a rotation distribution that gets a little bit rocked, there’s a play-call distribution that gets a little bit rocked. There’s a rhythm beat that’s a little bit foreign for a while," Brown said. “But the overall feeling as I remember it is you’re just so excited to be able to coach, you know, your marquee player, your most (high) profile player when they come back, for the first player chosen type stuff.
“But it does come with a level of pain and foresight of how you’re going to manage it."