Williamson, for his part, rewarded the team with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Pelicans’ 109-99 win over the Grizzlies.
“I felt alive again,” Williamson said, according to ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “My competitive spirit was there, and I’m glad Coach and the whole team trusted me to finish the game out.”
The Pelicans had Williamson on what they called a “burst restriction” during their first two games of the restarted NBA season taking place in the NBA bubble, playing 15 minutes in the opener and 14 minutes the following game.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it’s just different in a bad way when I’m on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there’s nothing I can do to help my team win,” Williamson said of the minute restrictions in the first two games.
“So I said I felt alive — it was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win. And as for the energy part, me and my teammates can just feed off each other.”
Williams looked energetic and aggressive on the floor since the opening tip.
“It was a little bit of both from myself and the coaching staff,” Williamson said. “They were telling me to try to give the team a spark and that’s what I was trying to do, give my team a spark, get ’em going.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry spoke after the game about getting both Williamson and forward Brandon Ingram going at the same time during the game.
“I think it’s great,” Gentry said. “Obviously, we didn’t mince words at all. We knew this was a game we had to win to even stay afloat at all, so I thought our guys did a really good job with it. And when you have two really young players like that who stepped up for you, and Josh Hart, you know, Josh is a very young kid, too. I think if you look at it, we have a good, young nucleus of players along with some of the veteran guys we have.”
“You miss a guy for 44 games and then you drop him and he’s a huge factor to what we are doing,” Gentry said. “But one thing I like about our team: We’ve got a lot of guys who can adapt to situations and guys who can adapt to a player of his magnitude into our lineup. Our guys want to win, and I think that’s the key right there. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what our players want.”