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Zion Williamson says he’s at his best entering 2022-23 NBA season: ‘I’m moving faster, jumping higher’

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New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has not played in an NBA game since May 5, 2021. Barring any unforeseen issues in training camp, this drought will finally end on October 19 when the Pelicans play the Brooklyn Nets in their season opener.

Less than a month before he can play meaningful basketball again, Williamson is itching to leave.

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“I’ve never experienced such a stop,” Williamson said during the team’s annual media day on Monday.. “I haven’t played this game for a long time. But my level of excitement is through the roof, I’m just ready to get back on the court. Over the summer, I focused on getting back into shape, playing condition, and honing my skills. as usual. I feel like I’m in my best shape right now. I feel like I’m moving faster, I’m jumping higher, I feel great.”

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That’s exactly what everyone in New Orleans and the basketball world at large was hoping to hear. Williamson broke his leg last year and needed surgery. At the team’s press day, VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin said they hope he will be ready for the premiere. Instead, the deadline continued to be pushed back, and in December it became clear that difficulties had arisen in the process of his recovery. He briefly moved to Portland to rehab on his own and was eventually ruled out of the season.

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Williamson has only played in 85 games since picking the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft due to multiple injuries. He was electrified when he was on the floor, averaging 25.7 points and seven rebounds on 60.4% from the field, but his inability to stay healthy and in shape became a major problem. While the team was keen to sign him for a five-year maximum rookie term this offseason and invest at least $193 million in his future, it was notable that they put a weight clause in the deal.

This season will be a real test for Williamson, not only on a personal level, but also on a team level. The Pelicans acquired CJ McCollum on deadline last season and put up a tough first-round playoff contest against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns. With Williamson, McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a number of exciting young players, this team has a chance to make waves in the Western Conference.

“This band is special,” Williamson said. “Training camp will really be like my first time playing intense team basketball with them. So I feel like I’ll learn a lot more after that. But on paper and from what I saw on the sidelines last year, we do have a dedicated group.

“Having a full camp will definitely help, but every time someone plays with a new band, there will always be an adjustment period, a learning period. I’ve written to BI, CJ about places they like and certain parts of the game. Do they like to start the game early, being aggressive, trying to understand the situation? Because all three of us can’t be there trying to understand the situation and not be aggressive. It’s just learning about my teammates and adapting where I can.”

As Williamson noted, there will be a period of adjustment for this group, and it remains to be seen where they will end up in the West. Much of that will depend on whether Williamson not only stays healthy, but unlocks the potential he has shown in his short time on the court in the league.

After a positive summer in which he not only got into great shape but also came to terms with the events of last year, there are many reasons to believe in Williamson and the Pelses.

“I have learned to appreciate the process,” Williamson said. “I could never put it into words with all the hardships, all the cons.

“But the Notorious BIG album, Ready to Die, this album is lyrical – how he talked about stress, what he was dealing with, just feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders, just feeling like you were standing alone. This album really helped change my mindset and find true determination in the game. I’m 22 years old, I’ve been through a lot in the last year and some changes – some things you wish it hadn’t happened. But from this album, you will learn that this is life, something will happen, and you have to deal with it.”



Source: www.cbssports.com

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