7:05 P.M. (EASTERN TIME)
Zion Williamson will start his second season in the NBA without restrictions, the New Orleans Pelican star said Sunday.
Speaking to reporters as the pelicans opened their training camp, Williamson glowed with the biggest smile of the day when he was asked what kind of limits he could have this season. Coach [Pelican] [Stan] Van Gundy and I have talked and from what I know now, there are no limits. No, Mr. Williamson said.
When asked, of course he said. I love basketball. No restrictions? Why wouldn’t I like it?
Van Gundy told reporters Sunday morning that Williamson has no restrictions in practice. That’s good. That’s good. He added that Williamson passed the climatic test, which included a three-minute ride on the track, without any problems.
He and Nickel [Alexander Walker] probably did the easiest thing, Van Gandhi said. I thought, like everyone else, he did a very, very good job. So far everything is positive.
Last season, Williamson faced a restraining degradation when he returned in January after a knee injury that pushed him to the curb in the first half of the regular season. Williamson was somewhat disappointed at the time with the limited number of minutes he was available, but managed to finish a productive season with an average of 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 27.8 minutes per game.
In the NBA Florida bubble, Williamson missed time for the first game due to a family problem and finished with limited minutes, averaging 20.7 minutes in five of the first six games before being suspended for the last two.
But now that he’s starting the season in good health, there’s no going on – this Williamson is more than excited.
I think it’s gonna be really different because, well, it’s been hard, man. When you’re in rehab and you’re finally on the square, it’s three minutes, four minutes, and you have to get out of jail. It was a lot, Mr. Williamson said.
I tried to make the best of the situation and I think I did my best. But this will be different.
Williamson hopes that with the start of the new season, the old version of itself will also open.
I want to show you I’m a basketball player. I do what the team needs, whether it’s attack or defense, whatever it takes to win. I’m just a competitor, Williamson said.
When I’m healthy and competitive, I’m just one of many players. I think he’s the player everyone’s fallen in love with.
Last season was an ordeal for Williamson for another reason, as the Pelicans stumbled over a record time of 30:42 and missed the playoffs.
After the off-season actions, Williamson and Brandon Ingram, who recently signed a maximum five-year extension, are undoubtedly the cornerstones that will help the franchise move forward.
If we want to be winners, we have to do things that are inappropriate or uncomfortable for us. That’s where professionalism comes in, Williamson said.
Losing is just not fun. It’s necessary because it makes you better. What you don’t break, you break yourself. That’s part of the ups and downs. But if we want to win, we have to remember what we’ve been through and not lose sight of the winner.
Part of the ability to change this way of thinking will come from Van Gandhi’s approach to the game. Sunday’s practice consisted of 30 to 40 minutes in which Van Gandhi broke through defensive concepts and then led straight through defensive exercises for more than two hours.
It’s very detailed. Williamson was talking about Van Gundy. We’ve been through a lot. I felt like we were doing a lot in one day, especially on the first day. I look forward to working with him.