NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson had missed the past four meetings between the Knicks and the Pelicans because of injuries, but the former No. 1 overall pick looks healthy and fit to start this season.
Williamson dominated inside Saturday night with 24 points on 12-for-17 shooting in 28 minutes to lead the Pelicans to a 96-87 win over the Knicks in his first appearance against them since April 2021.
“My teammates had a lot of off-ball movement, and that gave me a little more space, and I made the most of it,” Williamson said after the game. “I’m glad we could deliver a win in the home opener.”
The 23-year-old Williamson, a potential Knicks trade target if the Pelicans make him available, scored 24 points on 12-of-17 shooting Wednesday night in his first game since Jan. 2 of last season.
Williamson was the top overall pick in the 2019 draft, while Knicks wing RJ Barrett was selected third, one slot behind Ja Morant of the Grizzlies.
The 6-foot-6 power forward sat out much of his rookie season due to knee issues and all of the 2021-22 campaign with a foot injury.
The Pelicans owned the Western Conference’s best record through mid-December last season, but the two-time All-Star didn’t play after Jan. 2 due to a hamstring issue — and they lost to the Thunder in the play-in tournament.
In his first four NBA seasons, Williamson has appeared in just 115 of a possible 318 games.
In Saturday’s game, he outplayed fellow All-Star forward Julius Randle, who committed eight turnovers and scored 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
“Each player is different. They’re both very, very talented. … But there’s some comparisons in terms of style of play, downhill, attacking the rim,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Julius is further down the road because of the years he’s been in the league, and I think the thing that you respect about Julius is that every year he’s added a lot to his game. And Julius never misses [games]. I love that about him.”
Jalen Brunson was fined $2,000 by the NBA for flopping during Friday’s game against the Hawks as part of the league’s crackdown. Donte DiVincenzo had been assessed the same fine from the season opener against the Celtics.