ATLANTA -- Hours before the New Orleans Pelicans played in their first preseason game, coach Alvin Gentry did his best to paint Zion Williamson's game as just a learning opportunity for another young player.
"There's very few guys -- at 19 years old -- who can come in and impact this league," Gentry said. "There's one in California but there's also not anybody like him."
Gentry knows that, like it or not, the comparisons between Williamson and that California-based star, LeBron James, have already begun. And Williamson's debut scheduling wasn't an accident. After all, 16 years ago to the day, James made his NBA preseason debut.
"They shouldn't do that [comparing]," Gentry said. "We are not doing that. We are comparing Zion to Zion. We want Zion to be the best Zion Williamson that he can be. Not anybody else. We want him to be the best basketball player he can become using his name and no comparison."
He continued: "I know that it's inevitable that that's going to be the case, but we are not drinking that Kool-Aid."
Williamson shuffled past Gentry and toward a group of reporters after his first NBA shoot-around.
"Did they ask about me?" Williamson asked Gentry, grinning.
"Now why would they do that?" Gentry said, smirking.