Zion Williamson was the biggest name in the New Orleans Pelicans’ offseason roster overhaul.
But he wasn’t the only important newcomer.
With the top pick in the draft sidelined for six-eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Monday, other newcomers have an opportunity to show their worth.
Four of the five starters in a season-opening 130-122 overtime loss at Toronto on Tuesday were making their Pelicans debut — guards Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick, forward Brandon Ingram and center Derrick Favors.
Shooting guard Jrue Holiday was the only holdover in the starting lineup. Three of the seven reserves who played against the Raptors were also newcomers.
“We’re still a work in progress,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters.
The Pelicans will get a chance to show progress when they play their home opener against Dallas on Friday. The Mavericks opened the season at home with a 108-100 victory against Washington on Wednesday.
New Orleans showed its depth even without Williamson as its bench outscored the defending champion Raptors’ bench 57-23.
“We are a deep team,” Gentry said. “We’ve got a lot of things we have to figure out rotationally and execution wise and establishing what kind of team we are going to be. That’s not going to happen in one game or five games.”
Ingram — who had a team-high 22 points against Toronto — Ball and reserve Josh Hart (15 points, 10 rebounds) were acquired from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade. Redick, signed as a free agent, entered the starting lineup in place of Williamson and scored 16. Holiday had 13 points and six assists.
While New Orleans awaits the official start of the Williamson era, Dallas was victorious in its first game after the Dirk Nowitzki era. Nowitzki, the highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history, retired after last season, his 21st.
Dallas has rebuilt around a couple of other foreign-born players — guard Luka Doncic, the NBA Rookie of the Year last season, and Kristaps Porzingis, who was acquired in a trade with New York last season and made his Mavericks debut after being sidelined for 20 months by a knee injury.
“‘It’s finally here,” said Porzingis, who had 23 points in his return. “‘I just want to enjoy the moment. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself when I’m out there. Most importantly I’m here to win. I’m not here to chase something individually.”
Courtney Lee, a teammate of Porzingis’ since the 2016-17 season and part of the same trade with New York, was a surprise starter alongside Doncic in the backcourt.
“I’m happy for KP that he’s healthy and able to play the game that he loves,” Lee told the Mavericks website. “I’ve been with him for four years. I know how much he loves the game and how much work he put in back in New York and how emotional he was. I’m happy to see him back out there.”
Doncic led Dallas with 34 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. He made 12 of 19 field goals, 4 of 9 3-pointers and 6 of 8 free throws.
Mavericks starting center Dwight Powell will miss his second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury that kept him out of the preseason.
–Field Level Media