Zion Williamson is definintely feeling it, but will this be ‘his’ year with the Pelicans?
NBA be warned, Zion Williamson is back and apparently raring to go, which can only mean dark days are ahead for defenses.
With the kind of talent and presence that the Pelicans star has, fans and teammates alike can only hope that this will be his year, after a terrible time with injuries.
Pelicans’ Zion Williamson feels better than ever
Though it may be hard to believe, New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has not played in an NBA game since May 5, 2021. Assuming there is no tragic turn of events, that will all change on October 19th when the Pelicans tip off their season against the Brooklyn Nets. If you ask the man himself, the day can’t come soon enough.
“I’ve never dealt with a layover like this,” Williamson said during the team’s annual media day on Monday. “That’s a long time without playing the game. But my excitement level is through the roof, I’m just ready to get back on the court. My focus over the summer was just get back to playing shape, playing condition and honing my craft as usual. I feel like I’m at my best right now. I feel like I’m moving faster, jumping higher, I feel great.”
It’s been a long road back for Zion Williamson
It wouldn’t be surprising if there is collective joy being felt around the wider league right now. The challenges that Williamson with his injury were well documented and in truth, it was hard not to feel bad for him. Following the news that he would require surgery to repair his broken foot, the hope was that Williamson would be ready by opening night of this past season. Instead, his return date was continuously pushed back until finally, it was evident that his recovery was not going according to plan. Indeed, Williamson even travelled to Portland at one point to undergo rehab on his own before finally being officially ruled out for the season.
Needless to say, for a player who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, it’s been a long way back. With just 85 games under his belt, it’s been difficult to accurately gauge Williamson’s time in the league. On the other hand, he’s been a force of nature when healthy. With an average of 25.7 points and 7 rebounds per game, his 60.4% from the field only seeks to confirm the obvious: when Zion Williamson is on the floor, he’s a problem. That ‘when,’ however, is the real concern. The Pelicans have set out their stall clearly enough, by signing him to a five-year rookie max extension during the summer, that’s worth $193 million. Curiously, there was a weight clause included in the contract. This brings us to the present. With CJ McCollum now in the mix, along with Brandon Ingram and a slew of young talent, the reintroduction of a healthy Zion Williamson can only mean good things for the Pelicans and not so much for the Western Conference - just see the take some have on him in the tweet above.
Zion Williamson is focused on learning his team
Like a kid with a new toy, Williamson couldn’t hide his excitement about the opportunity to learn from and grow with his teammates. “This group is special,” Williamson said. “Training camp is gonna really be like my first time playing intense team basketball with them. So, I feel like I’m gonna know a lot more after that. But on paper and from what I’ve seen on the sidelines last year we really have a special group.”
“Having a full camp is definitely gonna help, but any time anybody plays with a new group there’s always gonna be an adjustment period, a learning period. I’ve been texting BI, CJ about spots they like and certain points of the game. Do they like to start the game off early being aggressive, do they try to get the lay of the land? Because all three of us can’t be out there trying to figure out the lay of the land and not being aggressive. It’s just learning my teammates and fitting in where I can.”
Notorious B.I.G’s album helped Zion Williamson with the “process”
Perhaps one interesting aspect of Williamson’s comments was his acknowledgement of the need for adjustment in the face of challenge. Good thing too, given how much of the Pelicans’ fortunes will depend on his ability to stay fit and sharp as the season wears on. Interestingly, it’s something that the former Duke prodigy credits a certain New York hip hop legend with helping him to understand.
“I’ve learned to appreciate this process,” Williamson said. “I could never really put it into words with all the adversity, all the cons. ...But the Notorious B.I.G. album, ‘Ready to Die,’ that album lyrically - how he talked about stress, what he was dealing with, just feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, just feeling like you’re standing alone. That album really helped kinda shift my mindset and find true resolve within the game. I’m 22, I’ve been through a lot in the past year and some change - some things you wish didn’t happen. But from that album you learn that’s life, things are gonna happen and you gotta roll with ‘em.” With that said, we’re thinking the Pelicans are worth keeping an eye on this season.