NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 11) — Zion Williamson made a much-anticipated return to the NBA hardwood Tuesday night, but it was the Orlando Magic who stole the show with a 122-105 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in both teams’ preseason opener. – Box Score
Williamson, who had been sidelined since January due to a right hamstring injury, put up 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 16 minutes of play. Despite missing his first two shots, he quickly found his rhythm, delighting the crowd with a two-handed dunk and adding a 13-foot running floater, a short turnaround, and a layup to his tally.
Teammate CJ McCollum praised Williamson’s performance, stating that the forward is “unstoppable” and will “do what he wants out there on the court.”
McCollum emphasized the need for the team to get their spacing right and to play with the correct pace and tempo.
“He looked good. He’s unstoppable. So, he’s going to do what he wants out there on the court. It’s just a matter of us getting our spacing right, playing with the right pace, tempo, getting stops and getting out and running,” teammate CJ McCollum said.
“But he’s going to figure it out. He’s going to be successful. We just got to make sure we continue to push the pace.”
McCollum added: “It’s an opportunity for the fans to see the work that he’s put in — the work that we’ve put in collectively to try to be better this season.”
For the Magic, Wendell Carter Jr. led the scoring with 18 points in 19 minutes, while Paolo Banchero added 12 points and six rebounds. Eleventh overall pick Jett Howard, son of Michigan coach Juwan Howard, contributed eight points.
In other preseason action, Luka Doncic received a warm reception in Spain, playing less than five minutes and scoring nine points in Dallas’ loss against his former club, Real Madrid. Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 21 points for the Mavericks.