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#pounditTuesday, February 7, 2023

Zion Williamson

Charles Barkley takes issue with 1 NBA starter selection

Charles Barkley holds a microphone

November 23, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Turner Sports sportscaster Charles Barkley before The Match: Tiger vs Phil golf match at Shadow Creek Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s All-Star starters were revealed on Thursday, and Charles Barkley took issue with one selection, for a good reason.

Barkley disagreed with Zion Williamson being named a starter in the Western Conference.

Williamson has averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game on 60.8 percent shooting this season. His New Orleans Pelicans are also 26-23, which places them fourth in the West.

Barkley’s big issue with Zion isn’t with his play, but with the Pelicans star’s availability.

“I hope he doesn’t take this the wrong way … but he’s missed too many games in my opinion,” Barkley said of Williamson. “I would have went with Sabonis or Markkanen. That’s just my personal preference, because I don’t think you can miss 20 games in the first half of the season. I just don’t think that’s fair.”

Williamson has only played in 29 of his team’s 49 games. He’s missed over 40 percent of their games — that’s a lot.

The other players Barkley mentioned were Domantas Sabonis and Lauri Markkanen. Sabonis has averaged 18.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists on 60.6 percent shooting this season. Sabonis has played in 45 of his Sacramento Kings’ 47 games, and he is playing through an injury. Markkanen has averaged 24.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Utah Jazz while playing in 46 of 51 games.

Barkley is absolutely right that availability should matter. But in the end, the All-Star Game is largely a fan event, and Williamson is a fan favorite, which helps explain how he snagged the spot.

Pelicans announce injury update on Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson holds a ball

Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) laughs while warming up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday shared an injury update regarding Zion Williamson.

Williamson left Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers with a hamstring injury. The team said Tuesday that imaging confirmed their suspicions that Williamson had suffered a strained hamstring.

Williamson will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

This is a tough development for the Pelicans and Williamson. Williamson is averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season. He has been able to stay healthy until now and had his team 23-14, which is the third-best record in the Western Conference.

New Orleans will need even more from Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum while Williamson is out.

D’Angelo Russell took shot at Zion Williamson after game

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

D’Angelo Russell is not a fan of Zion Williamson’s bully ball.

Russell’s Minnesota Timberwolves squared off against Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Though Minnesota led for much of the game, Williamson took over late to score New Orleans’ final 14 points. He finished with a career-high 43, and the Pelicans squeeked out a 119-118 win.

In one particularly noteworthy late-game sequence, Williamson ripped a Russell pass away from Jaden McDaniels and threw down the jam to give New Orleans the lead.

On the play before that, Williamson drove on Minnesota center Rudy Gobert and appeared to catch Gobert in the face with an elbow. No foul was called though, and Williamson converted the basket.

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Russell took a shot at Williamson’s style of play. He said that Williamson was playing football instead of basketball and also got in a swipe at the referees for not even letting the Wolves play defense on Williamson without calling a foul.

The Pelicans had some fun with those comments Thursday, uncoincidentally tweeting out video of a young Williamson playing actual football.

The Mr. Incredible strength of the 6-foot-6, 284-pound Williamson is part of what makes him such an incredible basketball player. He uses his power (with a solid dose of agility as well) to average 25.8 points per contest on a sublime 60.7 percent from the field. Williamson also shoots over eight free throws a night (and got a whopping 19 of them against Minnesota).

But it can be frustrating to defend the former No. 1 pick when referees let Williamson get away with way more physicality than the opposition does. The Wolves are not the only rivals that Williamson has annoyed either.

Zion Williamson angers Suns with controversial end-of-game move

Zion Williamson about to dunk the ball

Zion Williamson ruffled a few feathers on Friday night.

Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans won an important game at home against the rival Phoenix Suns. The two teams entered played on Friday having the two best records in the Western Conference.

With the Pelicans leading by nine points and less than ten seconds left, the game was already decided. But when Suns guard Chris Paul missed a layup, Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. came down with the rebound and threw it up the floor to Williamson. Instead of dribbling out the clock, Williamson made a beeline for the basket and threw down a thundering 360 windmill dunk, much to the delight of the New Orleans crowd.

Williamson’s jam angered the Phoenix players, including Paul and Cameron Payne, who were visibly upset. The two teams then got into a bit of a tussling match as the final buzzer sounded.

The Suns clearly felt that Williamson broke an unwritten rule by dunking the ball instead of running out the clock, as teams traditionally do on their final possession of a game in which they have a big lead.

Speaking during his postgame press conference after the dust had settled, Williamson, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, acknowledged that the move was a bit uncharacteristic for him. But he added that the Suns were the ones who sent his teammates home in the 2022 playoffs.

Indeed, the Suns and Pelicans met in the first round last season. Phoenix prevailed in six games but not without a lot of animosity between the two. Williamson’s controversial dunk is now further stoking the flames of this rivalry, which we will not have to wait long to see again as the two teams also play this coming Sunday in New Orleans.

Zion Williamson goes viral for funny response to Thanksgiving question

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson was not about to get caught slipping this week.

The New Orleans Pelicans star went viral Wednesday for a funny moment during his postgame interview after a 129-110 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Bally Sports reporter Jen Hale asked Williamson what his favorite Thanksgiving dish was. The former No. 1 overall pick declined to answer, saying with a smile on his face that “no matter what answer I give, social media [is] going to clown me.”

That was definitely a smart move from Williamson. Much has been made of his weight and diet since he entered the NBA, especially last season when Williamson missed the entire year due to a foot injury. Even local parade floats in New Orleans were clowning Williamson over his eating habits.

But this season has been Williamson’s redemption song of sorts. He is averaging a booming 23.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game thus far as the Pelicans now sit at 11-7 (third in the Western Conference).

Zion Williamson goes Michael Jordan ahead of Pelicans’ season opener

Zion Williamson holds a ball

Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) laughs while warming up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson wasn’t alive for any of Michael Jordan’s six championships. But that is not stopping Williamson from trying to be like Mike this season.

Before Wednesday’s season opener against the Nets in Brooklyn, the New Orleans Pelicans star showed up wearing a Jordan-themed “I’m Back” shirt.

The former No. 1 overall pick Williamson is set to make his return to the New Orleans lineup after missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury. He averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game the last time that he was healthy in the 2020-21 campaign but now has to adjust to several new teammates that he has never played with before (like CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, and Herbert Jones).

Williamson’s trainer already offered a warning to the NBA a few weeks ago. Now it appears Williamson himself is ready to go “Air Zion” on the league.

Zion Williamson reunites with player from hilarious old viral video

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson provided a heartwarming moment this week for basketball fans and Internet meme enthusiasts alike.

The New Orleans Pelicans shared before Friday’s preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks that Williamson had reunited with his old buddy from high school, Bryson Bishop. Take a look.

Actually, the two were not buddies in high school at all. Instead, they were opponents who battled each other when Williamson was with Spartanburg Day School and Bishop was with Oakbrook Prep (both in South Carolina).

Bishop, who was all of 5-foot-6 at the time, went viral for his refusal to back down during a 2017 game against Williamson, whom he had been assigned to defend. Though Williamson was already an elite prospect at the time (and about a foot taller), Bishop did his best to body up Williamson, creating a memorable moment in Internet lore.

Williamson would go on to be a National College Player of the Year at Duke, go No. 1 overall to the Pelicans in the 2019 NBA Draft, and make an All-Star team, all before turning 21. As for Bishop, Sports Illustrated shares that he is now a freshman guard at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama.

When you consider what a athletic specimen Williamson already was at the time of their meeting, it is easy to see why people still remember Bishop for his heart and competitive fire some five years later.

Zion Williamson credits unlikely source for inspiring him this offseason

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

As Zion Williamson gears up for his revenge tour next season, he will be fueled by some good old East Coast hip-hop.

Speaking with reporters at media day on Monday, the New Orleans Pelicans star forward Williamson credited one particular rap album for helping him reframe his mindset this offseason.

“For me, the Notorious B.I.G. album ‘Ready to Die,’ that album, lyrically, how he talked about stress, what he was dealing with, just feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, and feel[ing] like you’re standing alone, that album really kinda helped shift my mindset and just find true resolve within the game,” said Williamson.

“I’m 22, I’ve been through a lot in the past year and some change,” the former No. 1 overall pick added. “Some things you wish didn’t happen. But from that album, you just learn. That’s life. Things are gonna happen, and you just gotta roll with it.”

Williamson also said that he feels at his best physically right now.

The former All-Star Williamson missed all of last season because of a right foot injury and faced jabs throughout his absence over his weight and his supposedly poor work ethic. But Williamson has been putting in the work this summer, and his trainer recently had a warning for the rest of the NBA.

As for “Ready to Die,” it was Biggie’s debut album (released in 1994) and went down as one of the very best projects of its era, featuring radio hits like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” plus heavier tracks such as “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Everyday Struggle.” Williamson would probably get along pretty well with this other pro sports figure who is also a big fan of Biggie.

Zion Williamson’s trainer has scary comments for rest of NBA

Zion Williamson holds a ball

Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) laughs while warming up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson’s inability to stay healthy has been his one downfall since being drafted first overall in 2019. But based on what Williamson’s trainer is saying, things may be changing for Zion next season.

The Athletic’s William Guillory spoke with Jasper Bibbs, who is Williamson’s strength and conditioning coach. Bibbs had rave reviews for the Pelicans forward.

“He’s in fantastic shape,” Bibbs told The Athletic. “He’s been committed to putting in the work day in and day out. I’m really proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s a better athlete now than he’s ever been.”

Williamson apparently showed great dedication, doing workouts at 5:00 am and 7:00 pm each day during the summer.

Bibbs called Williamson a “generational talent” for his combination of size, speed and explosiveness.

Williamson, 22, has only played in 85 games over three seasons. He missed all of last season due to his foot.

It’s about time for fans to see everything that Williamson can do. Maybe this will be the season it all comes together.

Details revealed about Zion Williamson’s weight clause in new Pelicans contract

Zion Williamson smiling

Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Though not nearly Kyler Murray-esque, Zion Williamson’s new contract with the New Orleans Pelicans is still unusually detailed.

Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Thursday on the specifics of a weight clause that Williamson has in his new max deal with the Pelicans. Clark reveals the contract contains de-escalators if Williamson fails to keep his weight in check. Namely, the former No. 1 overall pick must keep the sum of his weight and body fat percentage below 295. The contract also states that Williamson must have periodic weigh-ins throughout the entirety of the five-year deal.

Clark adds that Williamson’s contract also has incentive-based escalators for if Williamson wins MVP or Defensive Player of the Year or makes All-NBA.

Weight has been an issue throughout the NBA career of the 22-year-old Williamson, who is officially listed at 284 pounds. It was especially so last season when Williamson was out with a foot injury — he faced rumors that he had ballooned to 330 pounds and that he supposedly ate a horrible diet.

That said, Williamson stands to earn a lot of money in his new contract if he keeps conditioned and does not let himself become Mt. Zion. It should also help for him to have a target number to stay below in order to get his bread.