NBA 2019-20: New Orleans Pelicans teenager Zion Williamson excites league like no rookie since LeBron James

Zion Williamson said: 'The physicality is a little bit different. There are more players that are a lot stronger. But I feel like with my size, it's not going to be that big of an adjustment. I feel like I'll adjust very well.'

Agence France-Presse October 20, 2019 10:04:47 IST
NBA 2019-20: New Orleans Pelicans teenager Zion Williamson excites league like no rookie since LeBron James
  • Knee injuries before his NBA debut have also brought worries about the New Orleans Pelicans teen star Zion Williamson.

  • An incredible pre-season run saw Williamson average 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game in four games for the Pelicans.

  • NBA general managers, however, predicted Williamson will be the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year with 68 percent support.

New Orleans: Zion Williamson has excited NBA fans like no rookie since LeBron James, but knee injuries before his debut have also brought worries about the New Orleans Pelicans teen star.

An incredible pre-season run saw Williamson average 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game in four games for the Pelicans, sinking a staggering 71 percent of his shots and dominating inside.

NBA 201920 New Orleans Pelicans teenager Zion Williamson excites league like no rookie since LeBron James

New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (left) drives past Utah Jazz's Jeff Green during a preseason game. AP Photo

"He's a monster," New York Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "He's a beast. He's just going to continue to get better and better. We understand that kid is a heck of a player."

But the 19-year-old US forward's size — 6-foot-7 (2.00m) and 285 pounds (129kg) — combined with his high-leaping heroics as well as speed and power, has many worrying that nagging knee injuries will continue and worsen unless he loses weight and improves his fitness.

"He's carrying so much weight. He's so athletic. I think he's going to have to lose a little bit more weight," says retired NBA star and television analyst Paul Pierce.

Williamson will miss the Pelicans' NBA season opener on Tuesday at Toronto and at least a couple of weeks as a result of a right knee injury suffered in a pre-season game. It's the same knee he famously sprained in college when his Nike shoe exploded during a game.

The shoemaker's stock fell $1.1 billion the next day but Williamson's stock has been rising since he turned high school stardom into a one-season run at Duke University — where he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocked shots a game.

His 68 percent accuracy rate was the best ever for a freshman in major US college basketball.

"He's too big, too strong. He's going to continue to do that hopefully over his whole career," said New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett, formerly Williamson's roommate at Duke.

It was enough to convince the Pelicans to select Williamson with the top pick in June's NBA Draft and trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for young supporting talent that figures to blend well with Williamson.

"For me to be selected number one, I can't dream it no better than that," Williamson said.

"I think we can build something. I see myself trying to step into a leadership role. I have to understand my teammates and understand where their heads are. It's a matter of us coming together, making the same goals and just willing to win, and I think we can do something special."

'I'll adjust very well'

Williamson played only nine minutes in the Vegas Summer League before he banged left knees in a collision and was benched for the remainder of the get-acquainted NBA games.

"The physicality is a little bit different. There are more players that are a lot stronger, so you have to find more skilled ways to score," Williamson said.

"But I feel like with my size, it's not going to be that big of an adjustment. I feel like I'll adjust very well."

There are plenty of other lifestyle changes in the NBA, the travel and longer schedule as well as faster and more physical rivals.

"It's just a different lifestyle," he said. "The grind is different. You always have to find different ways to stay ahead of your opponent."

That has proven troublesome for the Pelicans in past years. New Orleans went 33-49 last season and the team has won only two playoff series since starting in 2002, never going past the second round of the post-season.

NBA general managers, however, predicted Williamson will be the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year with 68 percent support.

"I'm a Zion believer and whatever he does I'll be right behind him 100 percent," said Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. "If he wants to shoot wide open threes and knock it down, then by all means keep doing that. It's only going to make him harder to guard and the team better."

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

NBA: Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade agreed between Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards
Sports

NBA: Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade agreed between Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards

The Westbrook-Wall deal works under the NBA’s rules because the two players are owed about the same amount: Each gets more than $80 million over the next two seasons, plus each has a player option of more than $45 million for 2022-23.

NBA: Anthony Davis agrees to five-year, $190 million contract to return to Los Angeles Lakers
Sports

NBA: Anthony Davis agrees to five-year, $190 million contract to return to Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis’ deal includes an early termination clause prior to the fifth year, but the lengthy contract is still a clear declaration that the 27-year-old Davis sees his long-term future with the 17-time NBA champions.

Former NBA champion Andrew Bogut announces retirement from professional basketball
Sports

Former NBA champion Andrew Bogut announces retirement from professional basketball

Andrew Bogut, a 2005 No. 1 draft pick by Milwaukee and who won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2015, was earlier planning to retire after playing for Australia at the Tokyo Games.