Injury issues greatly limited Zion Williamson's rookie campaign. After tearing his meniscus in the preseason, Williamson appeared in just 24 total games for the New Orleans Pelicans during the regular season. When he did play, his minutes per game were limited -- he averaged 27.8 on the season -- as the Pelicans wanted to be overly cautious with their young star. Heading into his second season, though, things are different. Williamson is fully healthy, and he told media members Sunday that he doesn't expect to have any sort of minute restrictions during the 2020-21 season.
"Me and [Pelicans] coach [Stan] Van Gundy have talked and from what I know now, there are no restrictions. None," a happy Williamson said, via ESPN. "I love to play basketball. With no restrictions? Why wouldn't I love that?"
Though he made the best of it, Williamson admitted it was extremely difficult for him to have such limited playing time last season, and he is understandably excited for increased on-court opportunity this season.
"I think it definitely will be different because, well, it was tough, man," Williamson said. "When you're going through rehab and when you're finally able to step on the court, three minutes goes by, four minutes by and you gotta get subbed out. It was a lot. I tried to make the most of the situation and I think I did the best that I possibly could. But it's going to be a lot different.
"I want to show that I'm a basketball player," Williamson added. "I'll do whatever the team needs me to do on offense or defense no matter what it is to win. I'm just a competitor. ... When I'm healthy and competing, I'm just a different kind of player. I think that's the player everyone fell in love with."
In addition to playing more minutes, Williamson will also see his role expand this season as the Pelicans plan to use him in a variety of different ways, not all of which they got to tap into last season. Specifically, Williamson could end up spending some time as a small forward, as opposed to power forward, or even center.
"People, I think, unfairly look at him as a big, and being limited to being a four or five," Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said of Williamson. "When we drafted Zion, the thing that excited us the most is the position-less nature of his game. We very much envision a time where Zion's going to be playing the three and defending the three."
Despite limited playing time, Williamson put up some big numbers as a rookie. He averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per performance and he became the first rookie since Michael Jordan to post 16 20-point games within his first 20 games in the league. With more minutes, we can expect Williamson's numbers to be even better in his second season.