6 mind-blowing facts about Zion Williamson’s first nine NBA games

Charles Curtis | USA TODAY SPORTS

Nine NBA games is an extremely small sample size to lean on when gushing about a rookie sensation.

But not every rookie sensation is Zion Williamson.

And in the first nine games of his career after his debut was delayed due to knee surgery, the New Orleans Pelicans stud has already shown why he has more than a good chance of becoming a star in this league. No guarantees, of course, but the future is bright.

So with the All-Star break upon us, let’s look back on the first few games he’s played and the incredible things he’s doing as a first-year player.

1. His shot chart is wild

We saw this in the preseason and we’re seeing it now:

2. He’s doing things only two other rookies have done

3. He’s doing things only two other rookies have done, Part II

4. Zion is doing off-the-wall stuff in limited time

5. His Rookie of the Year odds were low while he was injured

This doesn’t have a ton to do with him, but it sort of does. ESPN’s Zion odds tracker tells us Ja Morant was minus-1000 in January and Williamson was plus-1600. Now? Per BetMGM, the gap has closed. Morant is minus-500 to win ROY and Williamson is just plus-400.

6. He’s doing all of this before he’s turned 20 years old

Nothing Is Certain But Death, Taxes, and Zion Williamson Wrecking Shit in His Debut

Jay Connor | THE ROOT

Zion Williamson is a force of nature, and for three agonizing months, millions of sports junkies throughout the world waited with bated breath for Coach K’s pride and joy to unleash a tsunami upon the NBA.

Williamson’s meniscus tear in the preseason derailed the entire league: TV ratings plummeted and his new squad, the New Orleans Pelicans, nearly careened into the bottom of the standings until a recent resurgence sparked renewed hope. And finally, on Wednesday night, Basketball Jesus emerged from his tomb and the only thing that could stop his reign of terror was his own coach, current bane of the universe, Alvin Gentry.

After a slow start, Zion unleashed a full-frontal assault on the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter that looked something like this:

For three minutes and eight seconds, we bore witness to what can best be described as “tearing the Spurs a new asshole” as the 19-year-old phenom scored 17 consecutive points in one of the most insane displays of superhuman powers in recent memory. His opponents watched helplessly as our new Lord and Savior knocked down trey after trey with relative ease.

Yet with 5:23 remaining, and victory well-within the Pelicans grasp, Gentry did the unthinkable: He benched Zion.

No, seriously. I’m not making that up.

He. Benched. Zion.

Gentry had some explaining to do after his team inevitably lost by four points, and he pinned his decision to bench the nuclear weapon at his disposal on a minutes restriction.

“He couldn’t go back in the game, so don’t go there,” Gentry told reporters after the game. “Just because the medical people said that was it.”

Zion finished the game with 22 points, seven boards, and three assists in only 18 minutes of burn. And the Spurs aren’t stupid. They know they dodged a bullet.

“I’m glad he’s back,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s quite a package, both as a player and as a person.”

“He’s special, you know?” shooting guard DeMar DeRozan said. “Anybody who’s been following basketball the past few years seen the talent that he has, you know? Hope [he’s] able to stay healthy and be able to put it together. The sky’s the limit for him.”

As for Zion, he took the high road in discussing his coach’s decision.

“It’s very hard,” he said. “I’m 19. Honestly, in that moment, I’m not thinking about longevity. I’m thinking about winning the game. So it was very tough.”

Once that minutes restriction is lifted, the rest of the league might want to invest in some disaster insurance. Because it’s abundantly clear that the rookie phenom is about to wreak havoc for years to come.

Zion Williamson is about to show NBA fans something they’ve never seen before

Charles Curtis | USA TODAY SPORTS

Rejoice, NBA fans. It’s ZION WILLIAMSON DAY!

The No. 1 overall pick out of Duke will make his debut Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs at just the right time for the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that’s suddenly come together over the last month or so.

There are so many questions swirling about Williamson after his return from knee surgery, and so much speculation about what he’ll be able to do in the NBA.

I’ll add to it, with a prediction that’s probably not that nuts for those fans who watched him with the Blue Devils: he’s going to turn out to be something we’ve never seen before.

This is the Williamson who blew out his shoe while playing for Duke, likely because of the sheer force he put on his foot (and knee) while trying to pivot. It’s the Williamson who brings Shaquille O’Neal-like rim-shattering thunder when he dunks, who could prove critics wrong by hitting threes occasionally and make himself unguardable in the process. He’ll wow you with his underrated ball-handling skills for a man that size. And his otherworldly springiness will lead to surprise blocks and steals like this one:

Look at that speed! Look at that bounce!

And that SIZE! The Charles Barkley comparisons were somewhat apt, but Barkley didn’t seem this explosive above the rim. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, it’s shocking at how nimble and smooth he is. A reminder: there are two NBA players heavier than Williamson is, and they’re 7-foot-4 (Boban Marjanovic, 290 pounds) and 7-foot-5 (Tacko Fall, 311 pounds).

Yes, that’s led to all the concerns about his size and his knees, with the Pels saying his weight isn’t an issue, but now, New Orleans is helping him with his “kinetic chain” to take pressure off certain parts of his body. We’ve actually seen that before with Steph Curry and his ankles (that worked out well!), but you get the point. He’s the rarest of body types in the league.

How do you defend that? I keep coming back to this incredible preseason shot chart against the Chicago Bulls:

Is he going to keep getting hacked to go to the line, where he might struggle (he hit 64 percent from the charity stripe in his one year with Duke)? Or is that a bad idea because he’s strong enough to fight through some arms near the rim to give himself and-ones forever?

You get the point.

Maybe Williamson’s weight is a problem, or his penchant to explode from the floor too much for his body to take. But on the night of his debut, everything is possible, even in the limited time he’ll be on the court. Be prepared to see something you’ve never seen before, and marvel.

Zion Williamson could finally make NBA debut Thursday, but was seen falling asleep on the Pelicans bench Monday night

Too many cookies after a rich Fat City dinner?

It sure looked like Zion Williamson was falling asleep on the Pelicans bench

Andrew Joseph | USA TODAY SPORTS

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is nearing his NBA debut — possibly, even this week — but in the meantime, he’s been stuck watching the action from the bench.

Apparently, that can get pretty dull.

While I wouldn’t blame any regular person for nodding off out of boredom when forced to watch a January game between the Pistons and Pelicans, a regular person doesn’t play for one of those teams. Zion, however, does.

As the Pistons and Pelicans were playing a close game in the fourth quarter on Monday, the broadcast zoomed in on Williamson seated on the bench. And it certainly looked like the Pelicans rookie was battling those heavy eyelids, trying not to fall asleep.

Yeah, that’s pretty clear. He was making his best effort to stay awake. And NBA fans took notice to Zion’s near-power nap.

The best part had to be that the Pelicans were in a close game. Theoretically, that should have been compelling. The Pelicans ended up winning, 117-110.

Zion Williamson: Pelicans Teaching Him to Walk, Run Differently in Injury Rehab

JOSEPH ZUCKER | BLEACHER REPORT

Zion Williamson addressed his continued recovery from a torn meniscus, telling ESPN’s Jorge Sedano he’s letting the New Orleans Pelicans dictate the terms for his on-court debut.

Andrew Lopez of ESPN shared the details of Sedano’s report:

“Williamson told Sedano that he ‘trusts the organization’ in their decision making and also shared that his rehab process has been about more than just the recovery from surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee.

“The 19-year-old also said the Pelicans are trying to re-teach him how to walk and run differently – working on the kinetic chain of his body.”

When Williamson underwent knee surgery in October, the Pelicans expected him to be back in six to eight weeks. While the No. 1 overall pick is making incremental progress in his rehab, it remains unclear when he’ll actually get the green light to play.

Sedano also said during the broadcast of Wednesday’s game between New Orleans and the Denver Nuggets that the Pelicans are hopeful Williamson can participate in five-on-five practice once the calendar turns over to 2020.

If New Orleans was contending for a postseason spot, the team might have an added incentive to accelerate Williamson’s timeline. Instead, the team is 8-23 and next-to-last in the Western Conference.

Williamson’s long-term health should be the Pelicans’ bigger concern, so it makes sense to not only make sure his knee has healed but also do everything they can to prevent another knee injury down the road.

Davis delivers 41 in return, LeBron becomes 4th player to surpass 33,000 career points

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Anthony Davis is no longer a popular man in New Orleans.

We got our first decent clue of that back in February when New Orleans Pelicans booed the star while he was still on the team after his very public trade demand, but his return to the city on Wednesday left no doubt.

New Orleans fans boo Lakers’ Anthony Davis

The boos rained, heavily and consistently Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers star returned to New Orleans to face his former team. They started as soon as he hit the court and reached a peak as he was introduced in the Smoothie King Center for the first time as an opponent.

Perhaps wisely, the Pelicans reportedly held off from airing any sort of tribute video for Davis.

AD gets the last laugh vs. Pelicans

The boos continued into the game, with the the crowd jeering Davis whenever he touched the ball and cheered his misses and turnovers. The Lakers responded by feeding Davis the ball in the first quarter, with him posting 11 of the team’s 22 field goal attempts for 14 points.

Davis eventually got the last laugh, posting a season-high 41 points on 15-of-30 shooting and killing the Pelicans’ shot at a last-second game-winner by stealing an in-bounds pass in the final seconds of a 114-110 Lakers win.

That point total also meant a bit of history for The Brow, becoming the first player in NBA history to score more than 40 points in his first game against a former team, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Davis also appeared to escape injury after sitting for part of the fourth quarter with an apparent right arm injury. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis was fine after the game.

Pelicans fans’ reaction was expected

None of the reactions in the Smoothie King Center were a surprise for Davis, who told ESPN he expected almost exactly that treatment:

“I’m pretty sure every time I catch the ball, it’s probably going to be boos and stuff like that,” Davis said. “Obviously they’re fans of the Pelicans. And I understand why they feel that way, but it’s all love on my end.”

That’s logical enough from Davis, who made few friends in New Orleans after publicly requesting a trade and essentially sabotaging trade talks with the Boston Celtics, the Lakers’ biggest competitor for his talents. Had the Pelicans not lucked out and won the draft lottery to get Zion Williamson, a situation that included their general manager getting fired, things could have been a lot worse for the team.

Davis ended up getting his wish, and now he’s on the Lakers and a major part of their NBA-best 16-2 record. He never got the kind of support in New Orleans that he now has in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean the majority of Pelicans fans will forgive him anytime soon.

Lakers’ LeBron James Becomes 4th Player Ever to Score 33,000 Points

SCOTT POLACEK | BLEACHER REPORT

Add another accomplishment to LeBron James‘ illustrious resume.

James became the fourth player in NBA history to score 33,000 career points during Wednesday’s 114-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. There is a Los Angeles Lakers flavor to the top four scorers, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant are the only other players to reach the milestone:

James reached the 33,000-point club with a contested three-pointer in crunch time during the fourth quarter:

As if there was any doubting James’ status in league history, he is ahead of Michael Jordan (fifth) and chasing three of the greatest to ever lace them up in the NBA. Bryant is well within his sights, which will set up an interesting dynamic with Lakers fans who idolized Kobe and now find themselves cheering for the King.

James is already a three-time champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time league MVP, 15-time All-NBA selection, six-time All-Defensive selection and 15-time All-Star who has little left to accomplish at this point of his career.

Rather than winding down entering the twilight of a legendary career, he is focused on getting better.

“I just want to be able to not have any weaknesses,” he told reporters following Monday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs.

It is hard to find any, and one of the league’s best scorers, passers, leaders and champions joined elite company in another category on Wednesday.

FINALLY — THE TRUTH ABOUT ZION WILLIAMSON: will miss 6-8 weeks after knee surgery for torn meniscus

Zion Williamson to miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing knee surgery

Cassandra Negley | Yahoo Sports

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in this past June’s NBA draft, will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on a torn right lateral meniscus, the team announced on Monday afternoon.

New Orleans opens its much anticipated 2019-20 schedule on Tuesday against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in Canada. The earliest side of his recovery timeline would keep him out until the first week of December, and an eight-week window would push his return closer to Christmas, when the Pelicans are scheduled to visit the Denver Nuggets. Either way, Williamson will miss somewhere between a quarter and a third of a season in which he was a favorite for Rookie of the Year.

The Pelicans ruled the star rookie out for Friday’s preseason finale against the New York Knicks on Thursday night, citing knee soreness. Initial reports reflected confidence from the organization that Williamson avoided severe injury, even as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 284-pound star would miss a “period of weeks.” This latest news sounds a little more dire.

Williamson missed all but one game in Summer League due to a bruised left knee. Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin said at the time it was out of an “abundance of caution” they were keeping him out. The new issue is on his other knee, the one that caused him to miss a portion of his freshman season at Duke when his shoe exploded and he suffered a sprain.

Williamson’s rookie season pushed back

Prior to the injury, Williamson was enjoying a stellar preseason performance, averaging 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists over four games while shooting 71.4 percent from the field. He led the Pelicans in his most recent preseason game with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. His dunks have mesmerized fans, and he opened his NBA career with two of them.

A favorite for Rookie of the Year before the injury announcement, Williamson told Yahoo Sports’ Liz Roscher last week that he was more focused on the team than an individual accomplishment.

“To win a championship and have an impact on the team, that would be my dream rookie season,” he said.

New Orleans opens its home schedule a week from Friday against the Dallas Mavericks. The team has sold more season tickets than it has in the past decade and is now in the top half of the NBA in total sales thanks to the excitement Williamson brought to the city.

Zion Williamson expected to miss opener and first weeks of regular season

Zion Williamson injury update: What we know about Zion’s injured knee

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The New Orleans Pelicans are set to kick off the season on national television next Tuesday with a game against the Toronto Raptors, but the new-look Pelicans will be without No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson for the start of the season. Williamson, whose NBA debut is one of the most anticipated in recent memory, is suffering from a knee injury that could keep him out for several weeks, according to reports.

What’s wrong with Zion’s knee?

On Thursday, the Pelicans announced that Williamson would miss the team’s final preseason game with “right knee soreness.”

According to the Pelicans, Williamson is not traveling with the team to the game, and will remain in New Orleans for testing.

Williamson missed time during the Summer League as well after suffering a knee bruise in his debut, but that injury was to his left knee.

How serious is the injury?

On Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Williamson’s injury is more serious than a day-to-day issue, but is fortunately not expected to be severe. The Pelicans believe the injury occurred in their game against the Spurs on October 11th. Williamson scored a game-high 22 points in the Pelicans’ win.

The Pelicans have every reason to be cautious with Williamson, so it’s possible he could miss an extended period of the season as he recovers.