Zion Williamson will be under the direction of a new coach before his second season even begins.
After leaving the NBA bubble with two wins in eight games, the Pelicans announced on Saturday that they fired Coach Alvin Gentry. He still had one year left on his contract.
The Pelicans’ cornerstone forward, Zion Williamson, will be returning to a new coach in New Orleans as he tries to recover from an injury-plagued rookie season.
The expected change came the day after the team returned home from a disappointing performance at the NBA restart in Walt Disney World.
Significant moves were made by two of the first five teams eliminated from the restart after their early exits. After public pressure, Sacramento Kings General Manager Vlade Divac stepped down from his position after the team’s 14th consecutive losing season.
New Orleans already had a lot of pressure to succeed as they were one of the teams given a chance by the NBA to earn their way into the playoffs after establishing the restart. The Pelicans ultimately won only two of eight games. They ended 21st out of 22 teams.
After nearly two weeks of missing basketball activities in the NBA bubble, Zion Williamson played not much more than 27 minutes total in Orlando. Reportedly, Williamson already faced a setback attending an urgent family matter, forcing him to quarantine to rejoin the team.
Williamson has not had an easy go since beginning his NBA career. The rookie player missed the first 43 games of his first season after going through knee surgery in October.
To properly heal from his torn meniscus in his right knee, he wound up only playing in 24 of the team’s 72 regular-season games. Although he did not have much time on the court, when he did – he excelled. Williamson became the first rookie since Shaquille O’Neal to average at least 20 points and shoot better than 55 percent from the field.
Gentry is reportedly owed around $5 million for next season, although the team will no longer employ him. He coached the Pelicans for the past five seasons but only managed one playoff appearance.
New Orleans endured a rough season in 2018-2019 that unfortunately led to Anthony Davis’ trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2019.
Their struggles put them in a position to win the 2019 NBA draft lottery. This allotted them the opportunity to select Williamson right out of Duke. With the team’s new roster that includes Williamson, Jrue Holiday, and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans is expected to choose from a skilled list of candidates to replace Gentry.
Potential coaches reportedly include Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers, former Milwaukee Bucks and Nets coach Jason Kidd, and former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson.
The Pelicans now face a similar predicament as the Chicago Bulls as the only NBA teams that currently have coaching openings.
The Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin, said he was grateful for Gentry’s years of commitment to the organization and the local community. He emphasized that a big move like this involved consideration of fit and timing.
Griffin claims the team believes this is the correct time to make a change.