Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

Luka Doncic has described Zion Williamson as "a different beast", the like of which the NBA has never seen before.

Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, had back-to-back 30-point games for the New Orleans Pelicans prior to the All-Star Game in Chicago this weekend.

The teenager has scored at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA appearances - with five-time MVP Michael Jordan the last rookie to achieve such a feat - and is averaging 22.1 points after returning from a knee injury that delayed the start of his much-anticipated debut season.

Doncic will face Williamson in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday when Team World face Team USA and the Slovenian has been highly impressed by the Pels forward's adaptation to the NBA.

"You can see he's a beast," Doncic told reporters.

"What's he played - 10 games? He's averaging like 25 [points].

"He's a different beast. I don't think we've seen a player like him. He's going to be an amazing player."

Should Williamson continue to put up huge numbers, he could succeed Doncic in winning the Rookie of the Year award.

The Dallas Mavericks star has enjoyed a fine sophomore season too, averaging 28.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists.

Along with reigning MVP and Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbian center Nikola Jokic, Doncic is one of several international players currently starring in the NBA.

"There's a lot of international players that are really good," Doncic added.

"That's what it shows in this All-Star [Weekend] - there's a lot of international players.

"The world can see that we can play basketball too."

Zion Williamson has expressed an interest in representing the United States at an Olympics, having been left off the country's preliminary roster for the Tokyo Games.

The USA, who have won gold at the last three Olympics, announced their 44-man list for the 2020 Games earlier this week, with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard among the star names included.

However, there is no place for 19-year-old rookie sensation Williamson, while other impressive youngsters like Trae Young and Ja Morant have also been overlooked.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Williamson has poured in at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA games - a feat last achieved by the great Michael Jordan when he was a rookie - and the teenager revealed he is keen to play for USA down the line.

"That is something I would definitely want to do in the future," he told reporters.

"I think there's nothing better than representing your country."

Williamson was speaking ahead of the NBA's All-Star weekend, when he will represent Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Morant, the current Rookie of the Year forerunner, and the Atlanta Hawks' sophomore Young are also on a team that will face a world side that has Luka Doncic and RJ Barrett on its roster.

"It's an honour to be here in my first year, despite being 10 games in," added Williamson, who missed the first three months of the season due to a knee injury.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was also asked which of the game's greats he tries to emulate when he was on the court.

"I don't try to emulate any of them. I just try to bring my own style to the game," he replied.

"I watched a lot of [Michael] Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] clips."

Zion Williamson conceded he had surprised himself with a magnificent 31-point performance in the New Orleans Pelicans' win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Pelicans made it three straight wins as they claimed a 138-117 victory that saw the rookie sensation add nine rebounds and five assists in just 28 minutes on the court.

Williamson missed Saturday's win over the Indiana Pacers with a sprained ankle but marked his return in style on Tuesday.

In only his ninth career game, having missed more than 13 weeks after meniscus surgery earlier in the season, the 19-year-old went over 30 points for the first time.

He has now scored 20 or more points seven times, with Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal the only NBA players to have achieved that inside their first 10 games.

After his impressive outing, Williamson expressed surprise over his rapid progress.

"I expect to make an impact but I don't expect to do nothing like this," a thrilled Williamson said, per ESPN.

"I just kind of look to come in, just kind of fit in, just not try to mess up, but my team-mates and coaches are always pushing me.

"I do hold myself to high expectations, but I think it's just finding the line between reality and dreams. If my team-mates find me, they find me. If not, just got to make another play, get the rebound and just play defense."

Asked about the process of finding the right spots on the court and improving his decision making, Williamson added: "I think it is kind of happening.

"People are trying to find their own way. I feel like my game is so unique I'll be able to adjust to it on the fly. 

"At the end of the day, I'm 19. I have a lot of room for growing. I will mess up. I'm not perfect – I'm just going to learn from them."

Team-mate Lonzo Ball believes there is still so much more to come from Williamson.

"I mean, he's only going to get better," said the former Los Angeles Lakers point guard.

"He's 19 and came in midseason. I feel like he's still not in the shape he can be in. It's kind of scary thinking about what he can do in the future, but we'll take 31 points every night."

New Orleans improved to 23-31 and sit 11th in the Western Conference.

Much of the focus at the All-Star Game will be on the headline event and the Slam Dunk Contest, but the Rising Stars Challenge also offers great intrigue.

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Trae Young will all be involved as Team USA take on Team World.

With the early success that quartet have enjoyed in their fledgling careers, the Rising Stars Challenge should serve as further compelling evidence the future of the NBA is in good hands.

Here we guide you through what to watch for when the league's brightest talents do battle.

 

ZION & JA TEAM UP

Williamson and Morant appear poised to contest a fascinating rivalry over the course of their careers, but on Friday they will be on the same side.

Number one overall pick Williamson, sidelined for much of the year with a knee injury, and Rookie of the Year favourite Morant went head-to-head two weeks ago and offered a glimpse into the future as Zion's New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Rising Stars Challenge will provide a window into how the pair's talents complement each other, which could potentially be crucial for future USA Olympic coaches.

With Morant set for a prestigious honour and Williamson having recorded two double-doubles in eight games, Team World will have a hard time slowing them down.

 

DONCIC DOUBLES UP

Likely to finish high in the MVP voting, Doncic will - along with Young - double up at All-Star weekend.

The Dallas Mavericks guard will contest the All-Star Game as well as the Rising Stars Challenge, having been picked as a starter for Team LeBron.

With the odds in favour of Team USA winning the Rising Stars Challenge, Doncic's best chance of success in Chicago should be in the headline event.


UNDER-THE-RADAR STARS

While Williamson, Morant and Doncic will claim most of the attention among the rising stars, there are several less heralded players with the chance to snatch some of the limelight.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Canadian Brandon Clarke will face off having played an instrumental role in the Grizzlies' rise to playoff contention.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be crucial to Team World's hopes, his development unhindered by a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.

Eric Paschall's opportunities to shine on a national stage have been limited thanks to the demise of the Golden State Warriors this season, but the forward will have the chance to prove he is the Dubs' latest second-round gem.

 

YOUNG TRIBUTE TO KOBE

Proceedings at the United Center are set to be dominated by tributes to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash last month.

In the wake of their tragic passing, an emotional Young - having been mentored by Bryant - scored 45 points in the Atlanta Hawks' win over the Washington Wizards.

With two games on his agenda, Young will have ample opportunity to honour his idol by delivering on the court in his first appearance at the weekend as an All-Star.

Zion Williamson says he is following advice from the New Orleans Pelicans and focusing on his "longevity" as injuries continue to impact his rookie season in the NBA.

The number one overall pick was missing when the Pelicans triumphed over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday after spraining his left ankle in the team's previous road win against the Chicago Bulls.

Williamson missed over 13 weeks earlier in the season after meniscus surgery, but is impressing when he is on the court, with averages of 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

"They just told me longevity, the bigger picture, more long term," the 19-year-old said, per ESPN, of the late decision for him to miss the Pacers game, which was made after the shootaround.

"They've been doing this for a long time and I'm just learning. I'm just following their guidance."

Williamson has scored 20 or more points in four straight games, the only rookie to achieve that in the 2019-20 campaign.

After practising on Monday, he has declared himself "ready to go" for the Pelicans' Tuesday home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

All-Star Brandon Ingram also sat out against the Pacers and is questionable to play the Blazers, but Williamson is impressed with the Pelicans' roster depth.

He added: "We're a great team even without me or Brandon.

"Did y'all see that shot Jrue Holiday hit [against the Pacers]? That step-back. Man, I know he was texting his brothers in the group messages after that one. 

"But we played great. They were real disciplined that game. They executed when we needed and hit big shots to give us the win."

It was Giannis Antetokounmpo who stole the show in New Orleans as he got the better of his much-hyped duel with Zion Williamson.

Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in a dominant display to guide the Milwaukee Bucks to a 120-108 road win over the Pelicans.

Williamson had his moments - an aggressive grab to take a rebound away from Antetokounmpo in the fourth quarter arguably the highlight - but was very much second best to the Bucks superstar.

The 19-year-old, who managed 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists, said: "I mean, he's a former MVP.

"It's like going up against any great player. Do as much as you can to slow him down.

"He's his own player; he brings his own style to the game. That's why he's Giannis."

Statistically, it was the worst night of Williamson's fledgling NBA career - he shot just 5-of-19 from the floor - with Antetokounmpo admitting the Bucks' defense had paid him special attention.

He said: "I think we put a lot of guys, a lot of different looks to him.

"I was guarding him, Brook [Lopez] was guarding him, Robin [Lopez] was guarding him, Pat [Connaughton] was guarding him. Just tried to make him guess, just tried to make it as tough as possible.

"You know he's gonna try to go left, try to overpower whoever's guarding him, try to go and finish strong. And the guys behind gotta be active, gotta make it as tough as possible."

Despite his struggles, however, Antetokounmpo also saw enough to suggest Williamson was a star in the making, adding: "He'll be a really good player for a lot of years to come.

"He's out there helping the team; he's competing as hard as possible. He's just gotta stay healthy, and he's gonna have a bright future."

Zion Williamson must not go prolonged stretches in the fourth quarter without touching the ball, fumed New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry after their 117-109 loss to the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets triumphed at Toyota Center on Sunday, with James Harden pouring in 40 points as Houston came from behind in a fourth quarter that saw the Pelicans score just 16.

Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was making his sixth appearance in the league, having undergone right knee surgery in October.

The 19-year-old forward has quickly proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with, though, and logged 21 points and 10 rebounds against Houston.

However, Gentry was irate his team failed to find Williamson more regularly as they fell away in the final period and blamed himself.

"We didn't execute and we didn't do what we were supposed to do. That being said, Zion can't go four minutes without touching the basketball and that's on me," said Gentry.

"That's something that I've got to make sure that will never happen again. So I take responsibility for that. And if we're not gonna get it to him and not gonna execute, then we've got to have different people in the game. That's on me also."

Gentry denied the suggestion it was down to a lack of chemistry with Williamson still in the early stages of his rookie season, while also criticising the "absurd" and "ridiculous" total of 21 turnovers from his team.

"You've got to throw [Zion] the damn basketball, it has nothing to do with playing together or figuring it out," said Gentry.

"He has advantage and we've got to find a way to get him the basketball better, so I'm not buying the playing together or figuring out or anything like that. We have to have him have touches in the fourth quarter, if not there's no reason for us to have him in the game. And that's not going to happen either.

"I like our chances when he's got it down there because I think he's going to make the right play, and we didn't do that. You can't have 30 points off your turnovers and think you're going to beat a good basketball team.

"You can get away with it every now and then, but we're shooting 64 per cent for most of the first half and we're trailing in the game and so that just tells me that what we were doing as far as execution and turning the ball over is absurd, it is just ridiculous. It really was. It's as disappointed as I've been this year from the standpoint of doing what we're supposed to."

Harden was impressed by Williamson after his first game against the Duke product. Asked for his assessment of the Pelicans star, Harden told ESPN: "Beast.

"He's gonna be really good. This is only like his 10th game playing, he has a feel for the game, obviously he's strong, so he's gonna be great.

"He's really good. Very, very explosive. Athletic, as we all know. He has a good feel for the game."

Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic headline the rosters for the NBA Rising Stars Game at the All-Star weekend.

The New Orleans Pelicans selected Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft, but a knee injury meant he only made his debut last week.

He was selected by the NBA for the United States team to replace the injured Wendell Carter Jr, who is not expected to be back in action until after the All-Star break.

Williamson is joined by Trae Young and will go up against a World team that includes Doncic in Chicago on February 14.

Young and Doncic will be making their All-Star debuts at United Center, while Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ja Morant was also among the first and second-year players named.

 

USA: Trae Young, Zion Williamson, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Devonte' Graham, Wendell Carter Jr, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Eric Paschall, Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr.

World: Luka Doncic, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Deandre Ayton, RJ Barrett, Brandon Clarke, Shai Gilgeous-Alexaner, Rui Hachimura, Svi Mykhailiuk, Josh Okogie, Moritz Wagner.

The NBA came together to mourn and honour Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna on a solemn Sunday.

Though all eight games went ahead as scheduled, a dark shadow clouded the on-court action after Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant, 13-year-old Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California around 10am local time.

Games across the league began with intentional 24-second violations as players recognised the number Bryant wore throughout the second half of his illustrious career, a number Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said his team would never use again.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young took to the floor in the number eight jersey the five-time NBA champion adopted following his arrival at the Lakers in 1996 and proceeded to do him proud, dropping 45 points and 14 assists in a 152-133 win over the Washington Wizards.

"One of the last conversations we had, he was just telling me how much he's seen my game progress, being happy for me, saying how proud he was of me and how he wants me to continue to be a role model for kids growing up," an emotional Young later told a news conference.

The San Antonio Spurs lost to the Toronto Raptors 110-106 but head coach Gregg Popovich summed up the mood, telling reporters: "Good game. Tough loss. Who cares? Everyone's pretty emotional with the tragedy about Kobe."

Zion reflects after major milestone

Amid the mourning emerged some uplifting performances befitting one of the league's greatest ever scorers.

Zion Williamson marked his third NBA appearance with a first double-double, the number one overall draft pick contributing 21 points and 11 rebounds in the New Orleans Pelicans' 123-108 victory against the Boston Celtics.

"Kobe meant a lot to me growing up. I had both jerseys, the eight and the 24," Williamson said. "It's tough. I was on the way to the arena when I got the news. I just send my prayers to his family."

Damian Lillard became the first player in Portland Trail Blazers history to score 40 or more points in three successive games, the point guard hitting 50 on 14-of-23 shooting in a 139-129 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Kawhi Leonard put up a game-high 31 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Orlando Magic 112-97.

"I know he would have wanted him me to come out here and try to ball and still just be great," he told ESPN. "That's what I tried to do. Everybody is sad."

Kyrie sits out

Madison Square Garden, where Bryant memorably scored 61 points in a single game in 2009, dimmed its lights and fell silent before the Brooklyn Nets' 110-97 loss to the New York Knicks.

Kyrie Irving was a notable absentee, the Nets guard having shared a close relationship with his former mentor.

Another of the NBA's new generation of stars, Ben Simmons, said the world had "lost a legend".

"Kobe Bryant was someone who I looked up to, a fierce competitor, a champion, an icon," Simmons tweeted.

 

Respects paid in New Orleans

The Pelicans and the Celtics were among the teams who each took 24-second violations to honour Bryant.

Sunday's results

Denver Nuggets 117-110 Houston Rockets
Toronto Raptors 110-106 San Antonio Spurs
Atlanta Hawks 152-133 Washington Wizards
Memphis Grizzlies 114-109 Phoenix Suns
New Orleans Pelicans 123-108 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 110-97 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 112-97 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 139-129 Indiana Pacers

 

Rockets at Jazz

Monday brings the chance to focus on a big game in the Western Conference, with the second-placed Utah Jazz (32-13) to host the sixth-placed Houston Rockets (28-17).

Zion Williamson certainly announced his arrival to the NBA on Wednesday night.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes of action for the New Orleans Pelicans in their 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson had been sidelined since preseason due to a knee injury but dazzled in his debut, scoring 17 straight points at one point and hitting all four of his three-point attempts.

But how did other NBA greats fare in their first games?

 

Bill Russell - 6 points, 16 rebounds, one assist (December 22, 1956)

Prior to Russell's NBA debut, the Boston Globe had asked whether it was possible to "be too good to be overrated". No pressure, kid. 

Russell did not make any of his four free throws and went 3-of-11 shooting in 16 minutes. However, a man who would go on to be an 11-time NBA champion shone in other facets, grabbing 16 boards and blocking three straight Bob Pettit shots.

Wilt Chamberlain - 43 points, 28 rebounds, one assist (October 24, 1959)

A star at high school and college, the 7ft 1in center's bow for the Philadelphia Warriors was eagerly anticipated and he did not disappoint, racking up the points and rebounds.

It was a sign of things to come and Chamberlain won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in his first season.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists (October 18, 1969)

The broadcast of this debut included the line "the whole country has waited for it", a reflection of the attention the 7ft 1in Milwaukee Bucks center commanded at the time.

Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, scored 29 of his NBA record 38,387 points that night and he went on to be named to 19 All-Star Games.

Magic Johnson - 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists (October 12, 1979)

The first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft came to a Lakers team that featured Abdul-Jabbar, and it was the veteran's buzzer-beater that delivered the win against the San Diego Clippers.

A pumped-up Johnson certainly impressed, though, and his zeal for the game was evident when he jumped on Abdul-Jabbar amid wild celebrations at the end.

Larry Bird - 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists (October 12, 1979)

Johnson was not the only future Hall of Famer debuting on that night in October 1979 as Celtics great Bird was also making his first appearance.

The Lakers man might have had more points, but Bird had the double-double and he, not Johnson, would go on to be named Rookie of the Year. Both men won three MVPs and were named to 12 All-Star Games.

Michael Jordan - 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists (October 26, 1984)

There was little indication of what was to come when Jordan put up solid but not spectacular numbers against the Washington Bullets.

He would soon find his groove, though, averaging 28.2 points in a campaign that ended with the Rookie of the Year award. Five MVPs and six championships would follow for perhaps the greatest of them all.

LeBron James - 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists (October 29, 2003)

A man well-versed in dealing with insane hype, James' NBA debut for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers was delayed because another game went into overtime and ESPN did not want TV audiences to miss a second of the 18-year-old's bow.

Cleveland lost but 'The Chosen One' delivered exactly what the television executives were looking for, a steal and a dunk providing the first of many highlight-reel plays the four-time MVP would produce.

Alvin Gentry and Jrue Holiday believe there is even more to come from Zion Williamson after his impressive NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The number one overall draft pick belatedly made his regular-season bow following knee surgery, scoring 22 points - including 17 in a stunning fourth-quarter stretch - in the 121-117 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson made each of his four three-pointers following a slow start, and head coach Gentry quickly saw progress in his game.

"I think you'll see that in him," Gentry said. "It's his first NBA game, but I think the third time he went out there he was much more comfortable, much more aggressive.

"He found out that everybody makes mistakes and he just continued to play through them. I think, for him, it was just a relief to have one game under his belt.

"And now all of this goes away: first game, first game, first game. Now he can just play and get himself in a situation where he can continue to learn and continue to grow."

Gentry saw evidence of Williamson's "really, really high ceiling" but had to take the 19-year-old out of the game with more than five minutes left on doctors' orders.

"It was going to be a learning experience either way - if he played well, if he didn't play well," the coach said.

"I think the big thing is that he was much more aggressive during that situation. We talked at half-time, as I thought he was deferring way too much and I wanted him to be aggressive.

"I knew that he would make some mistakes, but I think what you saw there is a taste of what [is to come]. Once we get settled in and he gets settled in, there are a lot of things that we can do with him.

"There's a lot of potential there. It was good to see him do that. But I think there's a really, really high ceiling that he can reach. We'll just continue on, continue to practice.

"And no, he couldn't go back in the game. So don't go there. The medical people said that was it.

"We've got to be smart about it. I'm pretty sure Sean [Payton, New Orleans Saints coach] wouldn't take Drew Brees out in that situation. But we've got to be smart about it.

"We have to look long term and not one game, short term, and put him out there extended minutes. We were not going to do that in any situation.

"I think he made his point and he will continue to get better. But we can't sacrifice his whole future for one short-term thing."

Team-mate Holiday is certainly excited about what is to come, appearing alongside Williamson at a post-game news conference and interrupting one question to explain there is no return to "normal" when it comes to the teenager.

"This is going to be normal for him," Holiday said. "The way he plays, this is something he could do every day.

"We're here to help him and obviously for him to contribute to us and help us out, too. But with him being back, he's waited a long time for this and he's really excited to play - speaking for Zion."

Zion Williamson enjoyed a "dream" NBA debut, but was frustrated he could not mark it with a New Orleans Pelicans win.

Finally fit to play for the first time this season after knee surgery, the number one overall draft pick - viewed as a generational talent - played 18 minutes as the Pelicans lost 121-117 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Williamson started slowly before scoring 17 straight points for New Orleans in the fourth quarter, including four stunning three-pointers, to finish with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The former Duke sensation was keen to look towards a first victory, though, with the Denver Nuggets up next for the Pelicans on Friday.

"It was good to get out there, but I didn't get the outcome that I wanted," he told a news conference. "Got to get better and move onto the next.

"It was everything I dreamed of except for the losing part. The energy the crowd brought, the energy the city brought, it was electric. I'm grateful they did that.

"So, it was a dream come true to finally get out there, but, at the end of the day, I wanted to win, so just got to look at the next game."

Williamson, who described primitive 'MVP' chants as "different", said he felt "fine" after "that long rehab process", but he could not answer when he would be able to play a full game.

"Personally, I didn't want any restrictions, but I'm not a doctor or trainer," he added. "I've just got to listen to them."

And the teenager admitted some annoyance at having to bow out for Brandon Ingram with over five minutes remaining as the team manage his recovery.

"I'm 19, honestly," he explained. "In that moment, I'm not thinking about longevity. I'm thinking about winning that game. It was very tough."

Williamson acknowledged some benefits of his lay-off, though, believing his stunning run of three-pointers came due to his limited practice time in recent months.

"When you're not able to move around, do athletic movements for a while, the only thing you can do is shoot spot-up jumpers," added Williamson, who hit all four of his three-pointers.

"I guess that was a result of that."

Zion Williamson announced himself to the NBA with a thrilling taste of his talent on Wednesday, while James Harden and Russell Westbrook fuelled the Houston Rockets.

Huge expectations surrounded Williamson's long-awaited debut and the number one draft pick did not disappoint at 

The 19-year-old, having overcome knee surgery, erupted for 17 straight points in the fourth quarter to finish with a joint team-high 22, plus seven rebounds, through 18 minutes in the New Orleans Pelicans' 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 32 points and 14 rebounds, while DeMar DeRozan added 20 points.

Harden and Westbrook put on their own show in Houston, combining for 55 points as the Rockets topped the Denver Nuggets 121-105.

Fred VanVleet made six of his seven three-point attempts to help the Toronto Raptors prevail 107-95 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

LeBron, Davis drive Lakers

LeBron James dropped 21 points and Anthony Davis had 28 as the Los Angeles Lakers downed the New York Knicks 100-92 at Madison Square Garden.

The win ensured the Lakers bounced back from their heavy loss to the Boston Celtics, who made it two wins on the trot with a 119-95 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

There was an overtime thriller in Miami, where Jimmy Butler recorded 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to take the Heat to a 134-129 defeat of the Washington Wizards.

The Los Angeles Clippers' four-game winning streak came to a surprise end against the struggling Atlanta Hawks, who had John Collins to thank for 33 points and 16 rebounds in a 102-95 triumph.

 

Difficulty for Draymond

Draymond Green struggled on his return from illness as the Golden State Warriors slumped to 129-96 home loss to the Utah Jazz.

The three-time NBA champion played 25 minutes for five points, four rebounds and two assists in the rout.

 

Zion sends New Orleans into frenzy

Williamson lit up Smoothie King Center, proving a danger from beyond the arc as he went four from four from three-point range.

Wednesday's results

Utah Jazz 129-96 Golden State Warriors
Toronto Raptors 107-95 Philadelphia 76ers
Detroit Pistons 127-106 Sacramento Kings
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-114 Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers 100-92 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 119-95 Memphis Grizzlies
Miami Heat 134-129 Washington Wizards (OT)
Atlanta Hawks 102-95 Los Angeles Clippers
Chicago Bulls 117-110 Minnesota Timberwolves
Houston Rockets 121-105 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 112-87 Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs 121-117 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Lakers at Nets

Kyrie Irving is expected to return from a hamstring problem when the Brooklyn Nets (18-24) host the Lakers (35-9) on Thursday.

New Orleans Pelicans sensation Zion Williamson finally made his NBA debut on Wednesday and it was worth the wait as he exploded against the San Antonio Spurs. 

Williamson's long-awaited bow yielded a joint team-high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists through just 18 minutes in a 121-117 loss to the Spurs.

The much-hyped number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was forced to wait for his debut, having undergone surgery on his knee the day before the Pelicans' campaign started in October.

Tipped to be the next league superstar, Williamson - likened to LeBron James and the face of the Pelicans after All-Star Anthony Davis moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason - finally returned to the court at home to the Spurs in New Orleans midweek.

It was a quiet opening for Williamson, who only managed five points through three quarters at Smoothie King Center.

However, the 19-year-old lit up the fourth quarter with 17 straight points in a stunning three-minute period - going four from four from three-point range.

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