The past and future of the New Orleans Pelicans embraced prior to Zion Williamson’s first exhibition game as a professional.
The Las Vegas Summer League is the NBA’s premier summer league competition. It’s a showcase for the league’s recent draft picks that is often attended by some of the NBA’s biggest stars.
On Friday, the Pelicans faced off against the New York Knicks and No. 3 overall pick R.J. Barrett. Prior to the game, Barrett’s college teammate and No. 1 overall selection Zion Williamson met and embraced former Pelicans star Anthony Davis, who has been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pelicans past and future collide as Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson meet up and share a couple moments prior to Zion’s first NBA game. pic.twitter.com/R5XVw5UoCt
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) July 6, 2019
With Davis’ tenure in New Orleans over, it’s time for Williamson to begin building his legacy in the place Davis used to call home. Williamson’s summer league debut comes with as much hype as we’ve seen in recent years. There’s little reason to think he won’t put on a show from Day 1.
NBA fans will get a pretty good look at Zion Williamson when the New Orleans Pelicans take part in NBA Summer League action.
According to Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, Williamson will likely play 24-28 minutes in the team’s summer league opener against the New York Knicks.
The Pelicans plan for Zion Williamson to play 24-28 minutes in their summer league opener against the New York Knicks on Friday, coach Alvin Gentry said.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 5, 2019
While the summer league isn’t always a great representation of the competition rookies will be facing once the season starts, it is still an NBA philosophy and style of play. Williamson himself is very eager to embrace that style of play, so Friday’s opener will be good for him from that standpoint.
This is also great news for those who will be in attendance for the summer league opener, considering how much money people have been shelling out for a glimpse at Williamson.
If you thought that Zion Williamson was a terror in college, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday after a summer league practice session, the New Orleans Pelicans rookie spoke highly of his first taste of NBA spacing.
“Everybody can shoot,” said Williamson, per Pelicans writer Jim Eichenhofer. “You can’t really help [defensively] too much, otherwise it’s an open three. I love the spacing. It’s almost like a dream come true for me. Because every time I attack the basket, there is space.”
Despite being surrounded by below-average shooters during his time at Duke, Williamson still managed to put up 22.6 points per game on 68.0 percent from the field. Now that he will be playing at a faster pace on a more spread out floor, there is no telling what heights the No. 1 overall pick might soar to.
Tickets to Williamson’s summer debut on Friday are selling for preposterous amounts, and we will finally see then what he can do with all that spacing.
This NBA offseason has been one of the most exciting in years, and a lot of that has to do with the superstars that are changing teams in free agency. Another aspect of it is the buzz surrounding Zion Williamson, and we have yet another reminder of just how significant that has been.
According to online ticket broker TickPick, the average price of a ticket to Williamson’s Summer League debut on Friday was just south of $100 as of Monday afternoon. For perspective, tickets to the exhibition game were going for about $30 higher on average than the Los Angeles Angels-Houston Astros game, which is currently the top MLB game for Friday by average ticket price.
Tickets to Zion Williamson's Summer League opener Friday have an average purchase price of $97.13 — nearly $30 more than Astros-Angels ($67.83) which is the MLB's top game that day.#NBAFreeAgency #NBASummerLeague
— TickPick (@TickPick) July 1, 2019
Williamson is the most exciting NBA prospect since LeBron James, so it’s no surprise people want to see him in action. But $100 for a Summer League game that means absolutely nothing? That seems a bit steep.
If you want to know how popular Williamson already is with NBA fans, look at the way he shattered a record with his post-draft merchandise sales. The Zion hype train isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Enes Kanter has never been afraid to be outspoken, and he stirred some things up with a somewhat unflattering Zion Williamson comparison.
Appearing on Wednesday’s edition of The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Kanter said he was unconvinced by Williamson, calling him “Julius Randle with hops.”
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) June 26, 2019
Randle had something to say about the comparison — and it’s a pretty good burn.
Yo @EnesKanter last time you guarded me I had 45 relax bro lol
— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) June 26, 2019
Randle did, in fact, drop 45 points on 20-of-34 shooting for the New Orleans Pelicans in a 122-110 loss to Portland on March 15. Kanter played 20 minutes in that game and Randle played 42, but the point stands.
Kanter loves to troll. He may end up being way wrong about Williamson, but we got a pretty good tweet out of the comparison.
Zion Williamson is already the most popular NBA draftee of all time, at least if you go by merchandise sales.
According to Fanatics, via Lisa Fickenscher and Nicolas Vega of the New York Post, Williamson shattered the record by selling more New Orleans Pelicans jerseys and shirts than any draftees in history. In fact, in the five days after the draft, people purchased more Williamson shirts and jerseys than they did for the entire first-round draft class of the 2018 NBA Draft combined.
No. 3 pick RJ Barrett also broke the previous record after being drafted by the New York Knicks, but was outpaced by his former Duke teammate.
It’s pretty clear already that Williamson is being anointed the new king of New Orleans sports. Considering the level of hype that surrounded him all year and followed him into the NBA, this isn’t a huge shocker, but it’s still an indication of the stature Williamson enters the league with already.
Drew Brees has been the King of New Orleans for more than a decade now, and it will soon be time for him to hand the crown over to someone else. That someone may not play for the Saints, however.
After Zion Williamson was drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, Brees gifted him an autographed jersey with an awesome message on it. The 40-year-old quarterback told told Williamson he is “passing the torch” to him.
The message from Drew?
“To Zion – Passing the torch to you! Who dat!” https://t.co/s6gMKtzJel
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 23, 2019
Williamson will turn 19 in a few weeks, which means he was only 9 when Brees led the Saints to their first championship in franchise history. It must be a surreal feeling for him to have a future Hall of Famer say something like that to him.
Brees isn’t the only admirer of Williamson that the Saints have, either. Sean Payton made it clear how he feels about Zion as soon as the Pelicans earned the top pick in the draft. The hype surrounding Williamson is very, very real.