METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson didn’t want to have any miscues on his first official day of practice.
So there were no windmill dunks. No dribbling between the legs.
He just wanted to be one of the guys.
“It’s the first practice,” Williamson said Tuesday. “I’m not trying to mess up. Maybe my second year or something. I’m just trying to learn the system and be the best player I can be.”
Williamson is one of a number of new faces for the Pelicans. New Orleans only has five healthy players in camp who played for coach Alvin Gentry last season — Jrue Holiday, Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore, Kenrich Williams and Jahlil Okafor.
Because of that, Holiday said practice had sort of a “deer in the headlights” feel to it.
“I think it was just a new step,” said Holiday, who is entering his 11th NBA season. “It was new going from college to this kind of setting. It was intense. Everyone was focused and locked in.”
That included Williamson, who was being as inquisitive as he possibly could.
“He asked questions. That’s not overthinking,” Holiday said. “He doesn’t want to be wrong. That’s a great thing. Especially defensively. Asking questions, seeing where he’s supposed to be and worrying about the scheme. He did a great job today.”
Gentry tried to downplay Williamson’s performance as the team doesn’t want to put so much on the rookie’s shoulders.
Williamson and the rest of the new Pelicans spent a lot of practice on defensive drills, although pushing the pace came up often.
“He wants us to be a fast-paced team,” Williamson said of Gentry. “If you get a rebound, push it.”
Williamson credited Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for preparing him for his first NBA practice, saying the adjustment was “pretty easy.”
As for where Williamson will spend most of his minutes, the Pelicans are seemingly tinkering around with possibilities.
The team’s approach will depend on whether Williamson is playing small forward or power forward. Pelicans guard JJ Redick mentioned surrounding Williamson with shooting if he plays center.
Gentry said Williamson’s athletic ability fits in with how the team wants to play.
“He can rebound and push it on the break,” Gentry said. “He can run the wing. He can run and be a post-up player. He’s a real versatile player. We almost play positionless basketball. It’s not like he’s a power forward, a small forward or a guard. He’s just a basketball player. He fits into the scheme of things of what we’re trying to do because of so much he can do.”