“I couldn’t play basketball. I could only do limited rehab things. And then just seeing how the world reacted? It took a lot. It did a lot on my spirit,” Williamson said, acknowledging that the criticism he faced from outside observers took a toll on him and his family.
Having leaned on assistant coaches Teresa Weatherspoon – whom Williamson described as being “like a big sister” – and Corey Brewer to help get him through the year, the former No. 1 overall pick believes he’s grown a lot and is in a much better place heading into the 2022/23 season, both mentally and physically.
After signing a five-year, maximum-salary extension with the Pelicans in the offseason, Williamson has also gotten a reprieve from questions about his commitment to New Orleans. Speaking to Beck, the fourth-year forward laughed off the speculation that he’d want to leave the Pelicans after getting a first-hand look at the team’s second-half surge and playoff appearance last season.
“People really out here think that I could witness something like that and then tell myself I don’t want to be (there)?” Williamson said.
Here’s more on Zion and the Pelicans:
- Williamson left Wednesday’s preseason game with left ankle soreness, but the injury is considered minor, and the team only removed him for precautionary reasons, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “It was one of those things where it happened and I popped back up, like, ‘Yeah, I’m straight,'” Williamson said. “Played a few minutes after that, it felt fine. Then they sent me to the back just to double-check. We wanted to look at it, had a doc look at it, and he just said a little day-to-day soreness. But outside of that, I personally feel fine. Wasn’t bad news from the docs.”
- CJ McCollum returned to action on Wednesday after missing two preseason contests with a sore right ankle, while Brandon Ingram (toe) remained out. According to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Willie Green said that Ingram went through a full practice on Tuesday, and the forward himself told ESPN’s Lopez (Twitter link) that he thinks he’ll be able to play in the team’s preseason finale on Friday.
- In his first diary entry for Andscape, McCollum (as relayed by Marc J. Spears) explains why he’s “genuinely excited” about playing in New Orleans and says he’s embracing the opportunity to be a vocal leader and the primary ball-handler and decision-maker in the backcourt after seeing Damian Lillard play that role in Portland.
- In a story for The Athletic, Guillory profiles second-year forward Herbert Jones, who has the potential to raise the Pelicans’ ceiling if he continues to improve following a very promising rookie season.