From the moment the NBA started working on the bubble, everyone connected to the league made one thing clear. "One thing we know for sure, the NBA will find a way to get Zion and the Pelicans in the bubble." Last night we found out something else - the Pelicans found a way to make that goal seem pointless.
Due to minutes restriction/load management, Zion was on the bench as the Pelicans were letting a winnable game slip through their hands. The Pels entered the 4th quarter with an 8 point lead. With four minutes to go, the Jazz caught up and had a one-point lead 98-97. Teams were trading baskets for the rest of the game, and Zion was watching from the sidelines.
We were told New Orleans wants to make the playoffs. I'm not sure they understand you need to win games to qualify. The Pelicans need every win they can get, and not having Zion on the court makes that less likely. You load manage during the regular season, think long term; I get it. But you do all that so the guy would be ready when it counts. Newsflash New Orleans - we are there!
I'm no sports performance expert, but if he's ready for 15, he's probably ready for 17 minutes of play. Particularly taking into account it's a close game, and the last few minutes are often interrupted with free throws and time outs that serve as mini-breaks. Zion's explanation of why he was on the bench reveals this is a dogmatic issue.
“It's not even about conditioning. Just getting my flow back.”
Zion scored 13 points on 6-8 shooting in 15 minutes. I'd say his flow is fine. We've reached the point of fetishizing sports science and long term thinking to an absurd level. Not to mention that all these limits and tracking of players are still dealing with estimates. It is far from an exact science.
Zion on the bench was a frustrating moment in an otherwise spectacular day. The NBA is back, and we had two games that came down to the last shot! If only the best players were on the floor when games were on the line.