Zion Williamson factor shaping NBA’s coronavirus return

The NBA doesn’t want to restart its season without its brightest young star.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective, the league may dismiss the idea of playing as many as 90 regular season games and go right to group-stage type opening round because it will give Zion Williamson and the Pelicans a better chance of making the 16-team playoffs.

“I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in,” Windhorst said. “Look, I’ve just heard… I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”

The Pelicans, or any team for that matter, would be unable to overtake the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed if a limited number of regular season games resume as they hold a 3½ lead on the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings. The group state scenario would guarantee Williamson and New Orleans would play meaningful games as a larger number of teams would be included. The Pelicans also went 7-1 this season against the Grizzlies, Kings, Spurs and Trail Blazers – the teams with which they would be competing against for the final playoff spots.

It also appears some of the players want no part of meaningless games if they are going to risk their health to return to the court. Blazers star Damian Lillard has said he has no interest in that type of scenario.

The 19-year-old Williamson has played in just 19 games after a knee injury derailed the start of his season. He is averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game before the league halted because of the pandemic.

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