Pelicans star Zion Williamson 'moving faster, jumping higher' as new season approaches

By Sports Desk September 26, 2022

The New Orleans Pelicans were a pleasant surprise last season playing without their best player, earning a postseason berth in the NBA’s play-in tournament and giving the top-seeded Phoenix Suns a compelling six-game series.  

But to achieve more, the Pelicans will need a healthy Zion Williamson on the floor.  

If the star’s comments at the Pelicans' media day are any indication, New Orleans should finally see their roster at full force in 2022-23.  

"I feel like I'm at my best right now," Williamson said. "I feel like I'm moving faster, jumping higher. I feel great."

At last year’s media day, the Pelicans announced that Williamson had a broken right foot. The team and fans alike spent all last season waiting for a return that never came due to a series of setbacks.  

Williamson, who has played 85 career games since being drafted first overall in 2019, last stepped foot on an NBA court on May 4, 2021.  

"That's a long time without playing a game, but my excitement level is through the roof," Williamson said. "I'm just ready to get back on the court."

Despite his injury history, the 22-year-old forward said he is confident he will be healthier going forward, crediting the guidance of veteran teammates C.J. McCollum, Garrett Temple and Larry Nance Jr.  

"I learned a lot from a nutrition standpoint, from working-out standpoint, how long I need to be in the gym and the most efficient way to work out," Williamson said.  

McCollum, who received a two-year, $64 million contract extension last weekend, was a scoring machine down the stretch for the Pelicans after being acquired at last season’s trade deadline.  

The 31-year-old guard averaged 24.3 points in 26 games with the Pelicans last season, while Brandon Ingram scored 22.7 points per game.  

Reincorporating Williamson – who was a 27-point scorer in 2020-21 – to that mix is a challenge that head coach Willie Green welcomes.  

"I go back and watch film, watch some things that work, and then it's constantly talking with him, talking to the coaching staff and figuring out what works," Green said. "If it works, we will try to make sure we add it. If it doesn't, we move on.  

"But it'll be a progression with Zion, and it won't be a thing where right away we see the Zion that we're accustomed to seeing. I think it will be a progression based on him missing the time that he missed." 

While Green may be trying to temper expectations early this season, Williamson is expecting immediate chemistry with his teammates.  

"I think it's gonna be really easy for me to fit in with my teammates because they play the game the right way," Williamson said. "Nobody's selfish. Everybody wants to see each other succeed.

"Now, there are things we are gonna have to learn. Like I'll have to learn how to play with C.J. and [Ingram] on the court, learn how to play with Jose [Alvarado], Trey [Murphy], Herb [Jones] because I haven't played with those guys yet, but from watching film, it looks like it is gonna be an easy fit."

Related items

  • Doncic 'one of best in the world' - Kidd praises star man after Mavericks win Doncic 'one of best in the world' - Kidd praises star man after Mavericks win

    Mavericks coach Jason Kidd hails Luka Doncic as “one of the best players in the world” after the Dallas Mavericks made it to the Western Conference finals.

    P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining to seal a 117-116 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to send them to the finals with a 4-2 series win.

    Doncic finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third-straight triple-double to help Dallas on their way, with Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each adding 22 points as they rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

    Kidd praised Doncic for another inspired performance after the game, saying: "He's one of the best players in the world, but sometimes we lose sight that it's not just built [around Doncic].

    "One guy can't get you there. You need a team. Right now, he's got a team that he believes in."

    Doncic is just the fifth player to have three straight playoff triple-doubles in history, and he wants to soak in what he describes as a tough win.

    "We won the series. That's what matters in the end," Doncic said.

    "We won 4-2, [even though] we didn't have home advantage. It's great that we won, but just struggles are going to come. You got to stay positive and keep hooping.

    "Today is about today's game, and tomorrow we'll think about the conference finals.

    "I think we should all enjoy this, because this, I would say, was a really hard series."

    Kyrie Irving matches his scoring high for the series with his 22 points, but was quick to admire Washington’s late impact.

    "I think he [Washington] was just waiting for his moment.

    "He's played well the majority of the series, so we had some confidence in him that eventually he would make some big-time shots and grateful that he knocked them down. Man, that's just pure confidence and belief."

  • NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals

    P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining and the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 117-116 victory over the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to reach the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

    With the Thunder ahead 116-115 after Chet Holmgren’s dunk, Washington pump-faked to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the air and the whistle blew as his shot fell short.

    After the Thunder’s challenge was unsuccessful, Washington made the first two free throws before intentionally missing the third. Jalen Williams’ desperation heave at the buzzer wasn’t close.

    Luka Dončić had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple-double and Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each added 22 points for Dallas, which rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

    The Mavericks will face the winner of the Minnesota-Denver series with that headed to Game 7 on Sunday.

    Gilgeous-Alexander had 36 points and Williams finished with 22, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Thunder lost four of five games following a 5-0 start to the playoffs.

    Holmgren’s dunk with 8:26 left in the third extended the Thunder’s lead to 77-60, but Doncic and Irving combined for the next 13 points to make it 77-73.

    The final sequence capped a fourth quarter that had five lead changes and two ties in the final five minutes.

    Irving improved to 14-0 in closeout games in his career and had a 3-pointer to get Dallas within two midway through the fourth, the closest it had been since the second quarter. 

  • New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon' New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon'

    Mike Budenholzer admitted he would coach the Phoenix Suns, even if the team "was on the moon".

    The two-time NBA Coach of the Year, who guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the title in 2021, was named Frank Vogel's successor at Footprint Center last week.

    Arizona-born Budenholzer returns to his hometown after taking the 2023-24 season out, having previously enjoyed five-year stints with the Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

    The 54-year-old has only missed out on the postseason once in his 10 previous NBA campaign, guiding his teams to six division titles and entering the playoffs as top seeds on four occasions.

    Budenholzer now hopes to achieve something similar with the Suns, who endured a disappointing season under Vogel, which culminated in a 4-0 first-round series defeat by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    "It's mind-boggling to me, like mind-blowing, to think that I'm going to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns," he told reporters during his introductory news conference.

    "I'm excited about working with this roster and these players. We have great players and, with great players, comes great expectations. I think we embrace that.

    "The biggest message I want you to hear is that I would coach this team if it was on the moon. I would coach this team if it was in Alaska, if these players were in Denmark. I would go anywhere to coach this team."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.