Zion Williamson was the star attraction for Pelicans fans at this year’s open practice, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. After missing all of last season following foot surgery, Williamson has been impressive during training camp, with coach Willie Green saying he “dominated” the team’s first scrimmage. This is the first time Williamson has been able to take part in an open practice since his rookie year, so he tried to put on a show for the crowd.
“I haven’t been in that environment where I have been able to play and interact with the fans,” he said. “Once I hit one group, I looked around and was like, ‘I’m going to have to make a 360.'”
Williamson also talked about having stability for the first time in his NBA career. He agreed to a five-year, maximum-salary extension during the offseason, and he has watched the team reach new deals with CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. in the past week.
“My first three years, it was always a different cast of guys,” Williamson said. “To see some vet guys stay around and build something special here, it means a lot. Last season after the final game, I just wanted to be part of something special. Seeing CJ, Larry, some of the other guys stick around, I’m excited for the process.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Even though they aren’t that old, Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson have to fill the role of veteran leaders on a young Spurs team, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The Spurs have 10 players on their 20-man roster who are 22 or younger, and five are still teenagers. “There is something to be said that we are still here and kind of leading the locker room,” the 30-year-old McDermott said. “It’s a blessing honestly that they value me and Josh and Jakob (Poeltl) to be those guys. Because we don’t have any egos and want to see those guys thrive just as much as they do.”
- The Spurs‘ six rookies, including three first-round picks, will get their first taste of NBA competition Sunday night, McDonald adds in a separate story. There has been plenty to absorb in a short time for the group, which has been through only four practices together. “It’s been a lot of learning,” said 20th overall pick Malaki Branham. “Fast-paced, but it’s been good. We’re all fast learners so I feel like we all kind of get it.”
- Rockets coach Stephen Silas will focus on working out his rotations during the preseason, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “Still trying to figure out which groups play well together,” Silas said. “Tomorrow gives us a chance to do it against another team, which is huge. It’s hard when you’re evaluating both teams at the same time. But when you’re playing against a team, you can really dive into what works well offensively or defensively.”