NBA

Zion Williamson calls it 'a breath of fresh air' to be back on the court with 'special' Pelicans team

By Sports Desk October 20, 2022

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson was giddy at his postgame press conference after securing a dominant 130-108 road win against the Brooklyn Nets in his first competitive outing since May 2021.

Williamson missed all of this past season with recurring foot injuries, but used the offseason to get into the best shape of his professional career, and he picked up right where he left off.

Before his injury, Williamson averaged 27 points per game at 61 per cent shooting in his second season after being drafted first overall back in 2019, and he showed no signs of rust, dropping 25 points on 11-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Speaking to the media immediately after the win, Williamson could not keep the smile off his face when talking about how excited he is to be back on the court with this Pelicans group.

"The Nets are a great team, a great organisation, but today we just wanted to show how special this group is," he said during his on-court interview.

"We got the win, most importantly that's what we want to do, but if you see the bonds we have on the court, and on the bench, we really have a special group and I'm excited to show the world what we can do."

Later in his sit-down press conference, he reflected on his feelings about returning after such a long layoff, and what it is like to play with this group, since he has not played since the Pelicans' acquisition of C.J. McCollum.

"Simply playing the game I love, which I didn't get to play for a long time, was a breath of fresh air," he said.

"There were times where there was a loose ball, and it ended up in C.J. or [Brandon Ingram's] hands, and I didn't even crash [for rebounds], I'm like 'oh that's good'. Man, it's special. If you know basketball, to get a chance to play with two players like that, it's special.

"All three of us are unselfish, we all have the same goal, and that's to win. When you want to win, you put aside the personal goals and everything else. Whatever I've got to do, whatever they've got to do to win, that's what we're all going to do.

"It's one thing when you're excited for yourself, but when you see people you work hard with, and go to battle with, and they're genuinely excited for you and wishing you the best – you can't ask for much more than that."

Despite top-scoring in the game with 28 points (10-of-17 shooting), Ingram made it clear who sits atop the Pelicans' pecking order, calling Williamson "one of the best players in the league".

Pelicans head coach Willie Green also enjoyed the show, saying: "It's like he didn't miss a beat – you just throw the ball to him and watch what he does. He's fun to watch."

Related items

  • 'We played harder' – Carlisle proud of Pacers' efforts after Indiana force Game 7 'We played harder' – Carlisle proud of Pacers' efforts after Indiana force Game 7

    Rick Carlisle hailed the efforts of his Indiana Pacers players after they forced their playoff series with the New York Knicks to Game 7.

    Carlisle challenged his players directly in the wake of their loss in Game 5, which put them 3-2 down in the series.

    And the Pacers responded with a fine display in a 116-103 victory, which sees the series go down to the wire, with Game 7 set for Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

    "It was just activity. We played harder tonight, which was a must," Carlisle said.

    "We moved the ball better and we got more rebounds, and that's obviously a big key to the series.

    "We gotta brace for Sunday. And we must be ready."

    Tyrese Haliburton had 15 points and nine assists for the Pacers, and said: "Coaches challenged our effort, I think that was the biggest thing.

    "We had some boneheaded things happen [in Game 5].

    "He [Carlisle] just really challenged our group [players] 1-15 on how can we be better."

    Jalen Brunson finished with 31 points for the Knicks, but he was not overly impressed by his own performance. 

    "They try to make things difficult," Brunson said. "And I have to adjust as well. Show me different looks and I have to do a better job of reading it."

  • NBA: Siakam leads Pacers past Knicks to force Game 7 in East semifinals NBA: Siakam leads Pacers past Knicks to force Game 7 in East semifinals

    Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and Myles Turner added 17 as the Indiana Pacers rolled to a 116-103 victory over the New York Knicks to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday.

    Andrew Nembhard, Tyrese Haliburton and T.J. McConnell each added 15 points, with Nembhard grabbing six rebounds and handing out six assists. Haliburton had nine assists as the Pacers remained perfect in six home games in this postseason.

    The winner of Game 7 in New York on Sunday will advance to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

    Jalen Bruson scored 31 points on 11-of-26 shooting after missing his final 11 shots in the first half. Deuce McBride added 20 points with four 3-pointers as the Knicks fell to 0-3 on the road in this series.

    Already decimated by injuries, the Knicks lost starting forward Josh Hart in the fourth quarter due to abdominal soreness.

    Hart was seen holding his midsection multiple times during the game and asked to be taken out after he had five points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes.

    New York is already without All-Star Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic.

    Indiana used a 14-6 run in the third quarter to take control, turning a 61-56 lead into a 75-62 advantage. The Pacers maintained at least a 10-point edge the rest of the way.

  • Conley return completes Timberwolves as they force Nuggets decider Conley return completes Timberwolves as they force Nuggets decider

    Mike Conley Jr. said his return had completed the Minnesota Timberwolves after they crushed the Denver Nuggets to force a Game 7 in the teams' Western Conference semifinal series.

    The Nuggets had the chance to eliminate the Timberwolves at Target Center on Thursday after going 3-2 up in the series, but the hosts roared back to tie things up with a 115-70 rout.

    Anthony Edwards led the way with 27 points and Jaden McDaniels added 21 on 8-of-10 shooting, with the Timberwolves' win the second-largest NBA Playoff victory by a team facing elimination in history.

    Edwards put the team's improvement down to the return of guard Conley, who missed Game 5 after suffering from soreness in his right Achilles tendon.

    Asked what had changed for Minnesota, Edwards said: "We got Mike Conley back. That was it."

    Conley said: "Obviously I wanted to play the last game. I just couldn't move at all. Tonight it was a no-brainer. 

    "I was going to try to find a way. We're just better when we're a complete team."

    MVP Nikola Jokic had 22 points and nine rebounds for the defending champions, who were stunned by a 20-0 first-quarter run from the third-seeded Timberwolves. 

    Asked how Denver would look to forget about the loss, Jokic said: "I think we shouldn't.

    "I think we need to let it sink in. It's a great loss. They destroyed us, and we should learn from it."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.