10,000 turn out for Zion’s first open scrimmage


More than 10,000 fans were in attendance at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center to see Zion Williamson in action for the…

NEW ORLEANS — For many Pelicans fans, Saturday night was their first chance to lay eyes on No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

And they showed out in a way they never have before. Pelicans’ officials estimated over 10,000 fans in attendance for Saturday’s open scrimmage, with some waiting in line for over an hour outside of the Smoothie King Center in temperatures pushing 90 degrees.

When they arrived inside, they were greeted with a practice and scrimmage featuring plenty of action from Williamson and his teammates.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of new experiences that have been great, but to actually walk onto the court that we’ll be playing on a lot, it was great,” Williamson said. “I think we’ll have a lot of great memories here.”

Williamson had his fair share of plays around the rim, including throwing down an alley-oop from Lonzo Ball. But there also were a couple of misses.

On one pass from Josh Hart, Williamson tried to finish with a 360-degree dunk, but the ball went off the back of the rim. Then late in the scrimmage, Ball threw one up for Williamson, but he missed again. The play carried Williamson into the stands, where he decided just to sit with some fans pondering the missed attempt.

Fans still had a chance to go out on a Williamson slam, though, as Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called upon Williamson to end the night with a dunk. Williamson tossed the ball off the backboard and dunked it home to send the faithful home happy.

“Mr. Griffin did put me on the spot with that last one,” Williamson said. “But it was great. I know the people have been wanting to see the Lonzo-Z connection, so we tried to give that to them. I think we were 1-for-2 on that.”

Williamson and Ball also connected on an alley-oop that Williamson threw from beyond the 3-point line to Ball at the rim.

“We’ll be seeing a lot of those too, but he might not finish them,” Williamson said. “He might lay it in.”

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday and coach Alvin Gentry both credited the team with playing hard during the final part of the scrimmage and not letting it turn into a free-for-all.

“I was happy because I thought we did a great job of competing and we got a lot out of it,” Gentry said. “A lot of time these things end up like an All-Star Game, but our guys got a lot out of it. We competed at a high level and did a good job of taking what we’ve done in practice and use it in the scrimmage.”

New Orleans had 18 players available for the scrimmage, as the team held out center Derrick Favors because of a tight hamstring, according to general manager Trajan Langdon.

The Pelicans officially kick off their preseason schedule on Monday at the Atlanta Hawks.

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