(left to right) Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe and Zion Williamson rest during a game at Phoenix

Zion Williamson to miss his first game of 2020-21 due to inconclusive COVID test result

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

There were bound to be some complications and unforeseen obstacles for every NBA team during this unique 2020-21 season, but New Orleans has mostly been able to avoid them in the first three-plus weeks of the campaign. That is until Wednesday, when the Pelicans learned that they’ll be without their second-leading scorer due to inconclusive COVID testing results from earlier in the day.

Zion Williamson is one of three New Orleans starters who’ve appeared in all nine games but will not be on the Staples Center court for a national TV matchup against the Clippers. The 20-year-old remained in his Los Angeles hotel room Wednesday evening and did not join his teammates at the arena. He and the rest of the New Orleans roster will remain in the city for two more days, because next on the schedule is a Friday road matchup against the Lakers.

“He had inconclusive results and the timing became a factor,” Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said of Williamson not being able to play tonight. “We’ll know more as further results come back.”

Like Williamson, the New Orleans starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe (right eye irritation) and Lonzo Ball (knee tendinopathy) has played in every game in 2020-21, but both guards were ruled out for Wednesday’s contest.

Asked whether Bledsoe and Ball may miss games beyond Wednesday’s matchup with the Clippers, Van Gundy responded, “I don’t know. Lonzo’s got some of that tendinopathy. He’s working hard at the rehab and when he’s ready to go, he’ll be ready to go. I don’t know when that will be.

“With Eric, it’s just been a crazy situation with the eye irritation. It sounds like no big deal, but when you take a look at his eyes, the guy can’t get them open fully. When that will be? We don’t know. We would’ve hoped it would’ve been by today, but it’s not.”

Van Gundy noted early in his pregame media session that other Pelicans players will need to move into larger roles, including Nickeil Alexander-Walker and rookie Kira Lewis Jr., both of whom will log minutes at point guard.

“Guys have just got to step up and play well,” Van Gundy said of trying to fill the void of key player absences. “Neither one of (Alexander-Walker and Lewis) has played any point guard for us yet this year. It’s a great opportunity for them. They have practiced hard the last three days and both looked really good. It will be good to see them in a game. Those two guys will handle the point-guard duties.”

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