Prior to his 20th birthday on July 6, Zion Williamson was one of five NBA teenage rookies to average over 20 points in a season. After nearly five months of waiting, the NBA tips off its restart when the New Orleans Pelicans face the Utah Jazz on July 30.
Zion Williamson is expected to come back unstoppable.
The Pelicans have eight games to get in top playing shape if they are to make it into the ninth seed.
It is clear that Williamson has been putting in tremendous work during his time in quarantine. In an interview at New Orleans practice headquarters, he elaborated on how he and his step-father have been training. They make it a priority to practice on the court daily.
Teammate Lonzo Ball responded to seeing Zion again, “He looks amazing. He looks fully healthy. He looks even stronger than he was before, if that’s even possible.” Ball claims that if everyone from the team has been staying in shape and working hard on their game, they will be unbeatable.
Williamson stressed the importance of both mental and physical well-being, “I think this team can be really special when we’re all healthy”. He talked about the mental struggle that has risen from COVID-19 uncertainty. Sticking together as a team in these unprecedented times is key to making the playoffs.
After returning from his meniscus injury, Williamson and the Pelicans immediately made a push towards the playoffs, moving up to No. 10 in the Western Conference.
Despite having only played 19 games this season, he averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. Post-injury, he still demonstrates his ability to find the rim regardless of who is defending him.
New Orleans’ dynamic talent
In the last 19 games, we have seen a strong partnership between Lonzo Ball and Williamson. There have been some astonishing passes to Williamson from Ball this season. Most memorable was his nearly full-court alley-oop pass to Zion, who finishes it with a dunk against the Rockets back in February.
Before the NBA’s suspension in March, Ball was averaging 12.4 points and shooting 41.2 percent overall. With the help of Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, Ball has modified his shot and his percentages have been steadily growing.
Brandon Ingram was named an all-star this season and is being considered as one of the NBA’s most improved players. With the Lakers, he was averaging 15 points per game, but back in March he was putting up 24.3 points on average before the season’s suspension. His numbers have understandably taken a hit with Williamson spending more time in the paint, but he remains an integral player to the Pelicans’ success.
Jrue Holiday’s defensive abilities are going to be necessary in allowing Zion to be where he needs to be on the court. Holiday was averaging 21 points and nine assists back in March and left on a high note when he posted 37 points in a win over Minnesota.
During the 2018-2019 season, he contested more field goal attempts per game than did any other guard and was named to All-Defensive second team. The team suffered defensively without him in a loss against Utah when Ingram fouled at the buzzer back in January. He is an underrated star that is capable of quietly carrying New Orleans to the playoffs.
Another underrated player, rookie Jaxson Hayes emerged as a quick and important offensive player, scoring 1.6 points per possession. He has taken a back seat to Williamson this season, yet is still shooting 66 percent from the field and 63 percent from free throws.
David Griffin is determined that playing big with Williamson, Ball, Ingram and Holiday will take them all the way to the playoffs.
You can find the updated NBA schedule here.
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