Pelicans now plan for Zion Williamson to play back-to-backs

NEW ORLEANS — For the first time since Zion Williamson debuted on Jan. 22, the Pelicans are facing back-to-back games.

And, despite initially saying he wouldn’t play on back-to-back nights, the Pelicans will let their star rookie play Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks, just one night after he put up 25 points in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters pregame that the plan would be for Williamson to play in back-to-backs but that the team’s medical staff would continue to monitor him.

Throughout his recovery process from knee surgery that wiped out the first three months of Williamson’s rookie season, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said the team would play it safe when the team played on consecutive nights, but the Pelicans haven’t had to play in that scenario since Williamson’s debut.

Technically, Williamson has played on back-to-back nights once this season — on Feb. 13 against Oklahoma City with the Pelicans and then the following night in the Rising Stars Game in Chicago.

Williamson, who played 33 minutes against Minnesota, said he felt fine following the game.

“We got a great training staff,” Williamson said. “We’ll do the next day recovery things, and they’ll have me ready for tomorrow.”

Williamson said it was “a little bit of both” in terms of who pushed for him to play back-to-backs, but added the recovery process is important.

“I gotta do the recovery if I wanna be able to perform the way I do every night,” Williamson said.

New Orleans fell to 26-35 on the season with Tuesday’s loss and is now four games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

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