It came up again after the Pelicans’ loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday. In his first back-to-back, Williamson played a career-high 35 minutes and scored 21 points. But New Orleans could have used even more from Williamson in the overtime defeat.
Afterward, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry got snippy when questioned about Williamson’s conditioning.
I think he’s fine. We worry about him too freaking much. OK? He’s fine. He’s 19 years old. He’ll be fine.
We’ve already seen Gentry will say whatever it takes – true or not – to downplay controversy around his team. That might be him doing his job well. But we don’t have to trust him.
There’s a big difference between “He’s fine” and “He’ll be fine.”
Williamson is just 19. He missed most of the season due to injury. He has played just 17 games. It’s understandable if he’s not yet in optimal shape, and there are reasons to believe he’ll improve his stamina.
But it’s pretty obvious Williamson is in far from peak shape now. Even he admits he didn’t sustain a high level of energy against Dallas.
Jrue, Lonzo just kind of came to me and was like, “You ready to play?” Because if you saw me in the second quarter, I think I just kind of turned around, looked at Lonzo, like, “All right, I’m awake now.” Because they just came to me like, “It’s time for you to wake up.”
The Pelicans have gone out of their way to take pressure off Williamson. As he acclimates to the NBA, Williamson doesn’t need constant discussion of his conditioning. Williamson and New Orleans still have a bright future. They’re in it for the long haul.
But the Pelicans are also drifting in the playoff race, in part, because Williamson can’t sustain his elite production for longer stretches. That’s worthy of discussion.