“It’s very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game,” Williamson said Sunday. “Also, when I do catch the flow of the game, like I said, that horn goes off and it’s for me.”
Williamson said he is not getting frustrated because “that doesn’t help the situation,” even as the losses have hurt the Pelicans’ playoff hopes. The normally jovial Williamson has looked less-than-enthused on the bench at times but insists he is enjoying himself despite the restrictions.
“It’s still fun, but I guess, like you said, it’s not to that full extent as y’all are used to seeing,” Williamson said. “I’m a competitor. I want to stay on the court. When I’m coming out of the game, my competitive side of me that I want to stay in. I guess that does affect the fun a little bit, but not too much.”
Through two games in Orlando, Williamson has played just 29 minutes, thanks to “burst restrictions” the team has on him since he missed 13 days of basketball activity leading up to the Pelicans’ first game in the bubble.
New Orleans has been using the term “burst restrictions” to describe how they are limiting his minutes, saying it could be in a certain range depending on how Williamson looks each quarter.
The team has said it’s all part of a larger plan since Williamson missed time starting July 16 when he left for a family medical emergency, returned July 24 and quarantined for four days after that.
Two light practices later, Williamson played in the Pelicans’ first seeding game Thursday against the Utah Jazz but played only 15 minutes as the team watched his minutes — keeping them in line with what other starters played in the first scrimmage.
Williamson could have increased his workload to around 20 minutes against the LA Clippers on Saturday, but with the team trailing by 37 heading into the final quarter, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry decided against putting him back in.
“We definitely would have saw him in that situation,” Gentry said when asked if Williamson had been set to play the fourth quarter. “Obviously in a 30-point game, I’m not going to stick him back in in those situations even though some people think it would give him an opportunity to be on the floor and play. I just didn’t feel like that made sense in that situation.”
Gentry said the team has talked to Williamson about why they are taking the precautions.
“You just have to be smart in those situations,” Gentry said. “Everyone wants to play and play right now. We try to spend time as coaches and medical people trying to let him understand that this is going to be for the best short term and long term really.”
Neither Williamson nor Gentry could give an indication as to what the rookie’s minutes will be Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Gentry said he still had to ask the medical team about what Williamson’s bursts will be, and Williamson declined to answer, saying he didn’t want to give an answer and then have the number of minutes turn out to be something different.
When Williamson debuted in January, the Pelicans were also playing him in short bursts at first. He played 18 minutes in his first game on Jan. 22 and then 21 minutes two days later. In his third game, on Jan. 26, he played 27 minutes against the Boston Celtics.
New Orleans will look to get back on track and cut back on allowing points off turnovers. In their first two games in Orlando, the Pelicans have allowed a combined 51 points off miscues, something Gentry points to as a reason for the bad start.
Gentry said he showed the team clips of the 40 games before the hiatus where the team was playing well, showing good ball movement and playing good defense.
They haven’t looked like that team in Orlando, however. It’s something Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball said they have to get back to doing quickly if they want to salvage a chance to make the playoffs.
“Based off the film, you can see we’re two different teams right now compared to how we were before the break versus how we are now,” Ball said. “Whatever we gotta do to get back to playing how we were before, we gotta do. Whether that’s mentally or just watching more film, I don’t know. But we have to put it all together tomorrow.”