Pelicans’ Williamson draws huge crowd at open scrimmage


With apologies to Allen Iverson, yes, we’re talking about practice.

But 10,000-plus New Orleans Pelicans fans showed up anyway — all for a first glimpse of rookie sensation Zion Williamson in an open scrimmage.

Williamson joined his teammates at the Smoothie King Center on Saturday, two days before the team’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks. The Duke product threw down an alley-oop pass from teammate Lonzo Ball, and he returned the favor later in the scrimmage by lobbing a pass to Ball from beyond the 3-point line for another dunk.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of new experiences that have been great, but to actually walk onto the court that we’ll be playing on a lot, it was great,” Williamson told reporters. “I think we’ll have a lot of great memories here.”

The scrimmage ended with Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin asking Williamson to finish the night with a dunk. He did as he was told, bouncing a pass off the backboard and slamming it down to give the big crowd a grand finale.

“Mr. Griffin did put me on the spot with that last one,” Williamson said. “But it was great.”

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said his players worked hard and had fun at the same time. The only player who did not take part in the scrimmage was center Derrick Favors, who has a tight hamstring, according to general manager Trajan Langdon.

“I was happy because I thought we did a great job of competing and we got a lot out of it,” Gentry told reporters. “A lot of times these things end up like an All-Star Game, but our guys got a lot out of it. We competed at a high level and did a good job of taking what we’ve done in practice and use it in the scrimmage.”