Zion Williamson‘s absence this season hurt NBA televion ratings “big time,” according to an anonymous League official.
Injuries have been a factor in the depressed TV viewership numbers, and it didn’t help that the No. 1 overall draft pick was hurt during a meaningless exhibition game.
Per Yahoo Sports:
“I think so. The League does need him,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told Yahoo Sports. “Because he’s a great personality, a great feel for the game. And he’s a different kind of player. Kind of like Luka [Doncic], basically. They bring an element to the game you don’t see in other guys.”
A strong start to the preseason was halted by surgery on his right knee (meniscus) in October, and the Pelicans have been cautious with the timeline surrounding his potential return, preferring to look at the big picture.
“He wants to play. In those situations, you have to protect a guy from himself,” Gentry told Yahoo Sports. “This has been his lifelong goal. We understand what it is, but I told him we have your best interests at hand. We’re not gonna do anything [that’s a] risk, put you in harm’s way. We gotta be patient enough to understand that.”
According to a league official who requested anonymity, in 22 of the first 35 national TV games (ESPN, ABC, TNT), at least one star was missing from the game (63 percent).
“The Pelicans games were put on almost exclusively because of him,” the official told Yahoo Sports. “So his absence hurt us big time because they were on [national TV] so much early, and it hurt the spotlight on those games.”