New Orleans Pelicans striker Zion Williamson (1) shoots the Denver Nuggets in New Orleans in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, January 24, 2020. (AP Photo / Gerald Herbert)
NEW ORLEANS – Zion Williamson's audience enjoys great popularity during his first three NBA games in the regular season.
"We are obviously pretty good with him on the floor," said pelican trainer Alvin Gentry. "There is obviously a lot of room for improvement. He has now played three NBA games and what he did he really only did with raw talent."
Regarding the athleticism that has made the 6-foot, 6, 285-pound Williamson a sensation over the edge since high school, he has not shown any limitations from the arthroscopic knee since completing a carefully orchestrated three-month rehabilitation Surgery.
He ushered in the break in order to convert long bounces into points. He jumped over the defenders to miss his teammates' mistakes. He usually felt comfortable in traffic. But even if his melee shots weren't fired, he has demonstrated the ability to jump back suddenly and violently to counter attack and use them.
"He can miss it and catch in the air and dive," said Pelican guard Jrue Holiday admiringly. "It is given by God."
Former Duke star and NBA's best selection process last summer also showed excellent defensive skills, especially when he jumped off the floor onto the stands during a second game because of a volleyball spike block.
“He did a good job, as a low man and as a rotating man. You've seen that at Duke before, "said Gentry." He's very good at timing and blocking shots. "
Williamson unexpectedly hit three hands four times in a row on his debut last Wednesday.
"If you are unable to move, exercise for a while. The only thing you can do is shoot spot-up jumpers," Williamson said. "I think that was the result of that."
The caution of the pelicans towards Williamson is evident in the relatively small number of minutes that he has played. While he started all three games, he only spent an average of 22 minutes on the pitch. Nevertheless, he also has an average of 19.3 points per game – third in this category behind only striker Brandon Ingram (25 ppg) and Holiday (19.8 ppg).
Williamson said he felt physically good – no pain and no jumping or speed restrictions. Having been unable to run for most of the past three months, he said his conditioning was still in progress.
"This is the part that will get better," he said.
There were also moments when his chemistry with teammates was obviously wrong, which led to sales or other mistakes that disrupted the crime.
"Some of it is timing," said Holiday. "Obviously he looks good with the ricochets and all that, but I think there have been a couple of times when (Lonzo Ball) drove and (Williamson) cut a little early, maybe he cut too late sometimes. I feel like at this point, maybe I'm standing on the corner or positioning myself where he wants to be or where we'll find him – where his sweet spot is. I think these little things get a lot better over time. "
During his first two games, both defeated by Pelicans, Williamson played about five minutes before the start of a quarter and sat on the bench during the closing minutes.
But on Sunday against Boston, Williamson saw his first action at the end of the game, scoring eight points in the last three minutes when New Orleans celebrated their first win in the lineup with their newcomer. The pelicans will play in Cleveland the next Tuesday evening.
"I adapt to my teammates and my teammates adapt to me – just subtle things like when I pass it on, when they pass it on to me, where I want the ball, where I don't want the ball," said Williamson. "It will get better over time."
Gentry said it would be difficult to get Williamson out of the games when he provided the team with energy and points, saying from the start we had to think long term here. "
But his minutes have increased steadily. He played 27 minutes in his third game and it might not be long before he crossed the 30 minute threshold per game.
"It will definitely help us the more he can stay on the field and continue the chemistry," said Ball. "It is difficult to play when he only has two minutes, three minutes, but when he is out for a while we can crank up the pace and keep things going. "
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