Zion Williamson

Western Notes: Russell, D. Green, Korver, Zion

Winter weather played a factor in D’Angelo Russell‘s decision to choose the Warriors over the Timberwolves in free agency this summer, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

The Timberwolves initially appeared to have the upper hand, led by Karl-Anthony Towns, one of Russell’s best friends, and Pablo Prigioni, one of his favorite assistant coaches with the Nets. However, the Warriors swooped in on June 30 with a maximum-salary offer as part of a sign-and-trade involving Kevin Durant.

“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said of the Timberwolves on Friday. “But then when this (Warriors) opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me. … I did my first winter in New York and that was tough. So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors are still months away from getting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back, but it appears Draymond Green is ready to return to the lineup. Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets that Green is “trending toward” returning on Monday vs. Utah after missing five games due to a torn ligament and small bone chip in his left index finger.
  • It was an eventful offseason for veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who was traded from the Jazz to the Grizzlies to the Suns, then was released by Phoenix before signing with Milwaukee. As Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune writes, Korver admitted he was surprised by the initial trade out of Utah. “Yeah, definitely caught me off-guard. Like I said, I’ve been traded a few times before — very rarely do you see it coming,” Korver said. “You know, the NBA is a beautiful job for a lot of reasons; living stability is not one of them.”
  • Pelicans fans anxiously awaiting Zion Williamson‘s debut will almost certainly have to wait until at least December, as head coach Alvin Gentry recently confirmed that a November return date would be “ambitious” (Twitter link via Andrew Lopez of ESPN). Williamson, who is recovering from meniscus surgery, said last week that his knee is “getting stronger day by day” and is confident he’ll still have plenty of opportunities to contribute over the course of the 82-game season, writes Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.

Alex Kirschenbaum contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Duval, G League Draft, NBA Rosters, Williamson

Trevon Duval has signed a G League contract and is eligible for this Saturday’s draft, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days tweets. Duval was a two-way player for the Rockets last season and became a free agent when the team didn’t give him a qualifying offer this summer. He was claimed by Houston in March after the Bucks waived him. The former Duke guard made three cameo appearances with Milwaukee.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Journeyman center Hasheem Thabeet, former Lakers guard Vander Blue, and forward Trey Mourning, son of Alonzo Mourning, are some of the more interesting names on the list of players eligible for the G League draft, according to a league press release. The Northern Arizona Suns have the first pick.
  • There are 108 international players from 38 countries and territories on current NBA rosters, according to a league press release. The most-represented countries among the 108 international players on opening-night rosters are Canada (16 players), Australia (nine players), France (eight players), Croatia (seven players) and Serbia (six players). The Mavericks lead the league with seven international players.
  • Zion Williamson‘s knee injury created disappointment for the NBA’s TV partners, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic explains. TNT and ESPN wanted nationally-televised games featuring the Pelicans during the opening week of the season to showcase Williamson. They were stuck showing the Pelicans without the top pick in the draft on the court because it was too late to make a change. Vardon goes in-depth on how the national TV schedule is designed and notes that the Lakers play 21 of their 30 nationally -televised games after New Year’s Day because the networks wanted to feature LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the team’s playoff push.
  • Amida Brimah, the former UConn center who was in training camp with the Pacers, has suffered a torn right ACL, Scott Agness of The Athletic tweets. He was slated to join Indiana’s G League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.  Brimah will undergo surgery next week, Agness adds.

David Griffin Discusses Zion Williamson’s Injury, Conditioning

Zion Williamson is slated to miss six-to-eight weeks with a torn meniscus in his right knee. While some have speculated that Williamson’s injury occurred because of his weight, GM David Griffin made it clear he doesn’t buy into that theory.

“The notion that this happened because Zion is in poor condition is asinine,” Griffin said of Williamson (via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com). “He wasn’t in poor condition when he went 12 of 13 last week against Utah. That’s not what it is. He’s just a very unique body type and certainly from a physics perspective.”

Exactly when Williamson sustained the injury is unclear. He let the team know of knee discomfort in mid-October, a couple of days after the Pelicans’ preseason game against the Spurs.

The team’s medical staff is working with the No. 1 overall pick to learn more about his body, as there have been few players with Williamson’s particular type of athletic build.

“He can be 274 pounds with 8.5% body fat and he can be 280 pounds with 9% body fat,” Griffin said. “As we have gone through the process for our medical team, learning how to keep him lean and give him the core strength and stability and control he needs to handle all that torque he generates, typically that means you are going to do things to strengthen those areas.

“In this case, he gains muscle mass so fast and gains weight so fast, no one has ever dealt with anybody like him. He’s 19 and it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.”

Williamson played in four preseason games this fall. He averaged 23.0 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.0% from the field.

While the team has set Williamson’s recovery timetable at six-to-eight weeks, Griffin said today that he expects the former Duke star to try to make it back sooner than that.

Zion Williamson Undergoes Meniscus Surgery, Out 6-8 Weeks

It sounds like Zion Williamson‘s much-anticipated NBA regular season debut won’t happen until at least December.

According to a press release issued today by the Pelicans, the No. 1 overall pick underwent arthroscopic surgery to address a torn right lateral meniscus. Williamson is expected to be ready to return in approximately six to eight weeks, per the team.

It’s a tough blow for the Pelicans, for Williamson, and for the NBA, which scheduled New Orleans for several nationally televised games in the first few weeks of the season, including Tuesday night’s opener in Toronto. Of course, it’s also bad news for NBA fans, since the former Duke forward is entering the league as one of most exciting rookies of this century.

If Williamson were to miss exactly six weeks, he’d be out for New Orleans’ first 20 games and would be on track to return on December 3 against the Mavericks. An additional two-week absence would cost him at least seven more games, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Pelicans lean toward that option, since they’ll treat his recovery with an abundance of caution, as we heard last week.

With the star rookie on the shelf, the Pelicans could use some combination of Brandon Ingram, Nicolo Melli, and Kenrich Williams to fill the available minutes at the four. The Pelicans’ depth at forward will be tested early, as sharpshooter Darius Miller is out for the season with a torn Achilles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Zion Williamson Out With Knee Injury To Start Season

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is expected to be sidelined for “a period of weeks” to start his rookie season due to a right knee injury, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

The Pelicans announced on Thursday that Williamson would miss Friday’s preseason game vs. the Knicks with right knee soreness and that he would undergo further testing. According to Wojnarowski, those tests have ruled out the possibility of a severe injury, but New Orleans is treating the issue with an “abundance of caution.” A full recovery is anticipated, Woj adds.

While it’s good news that Williamson avoided a major injury, his absence will put a damper on the NBA’s opening night next Tuesday, when the Pelicans are scheduled to face the defending-champion Raptors in the first game of a TNT doubleheader. The Pelicans also have nationally televised games against the Warriors (October 28), Nuggets (October 31), and Nets (November 4) within the season’s first two weeks.

With the No. 1 overall pick on the shelf, the Pelicans could use some combination of Brandon Ingram, Nicolo Melli, and Kenrich Williams to fill the available minutes at the four. The Pelicans’ depth at forward will be tested early, as sharpshooter Darius Miller is sidelined for the season with a torn Achilles.

NBA GMs Pick Clippers To Win Title

The revamped Clippers are the favorites to win the NBA championship in this year’s survey of league general managers, writes John Schuhmann of NBA.com. Forty-six percent of respondents believe the moves that brought in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will result in the first title in the nearly 50-year history of the franchise.

The Bucks ranked second at 36%, followed by the Lakers at 11%. The Warriors and Trail Blazers were the only other teams to collect votes.

Milwaukee was an overwhelming choice to repeat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 76%, with the Sixers (24%) getting all the remaining votes.

GMs are predicting the following Eastern Conference playoff order: Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, Nets, Raptors, Pacers, Heat and Magic. Out West, the Clippers were picked as the top team by 66% of GMs, with the Lakers at 14% the only other team in double figures. Still the Nuggets slipped into second in the playoff order, followed by the Lakers, Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Spurs.

Here are a few more highlights from the annual survey:

  • Fifty-two percent believe Giannis Antetokounmpo will win his second straight MVP award. There was a three-way tie for second with Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Leonard at 10%, followed by Nikola Jokic at 7%. James Harden, LeBron James and Damian Lillard also received votes. Antetokounmpo was picked by 86% of GMs as the player they would like to build a franchise around, while De’Aaron Fox was tabbed as the most likely to have a breakout season.
  • The choices for best player at each position were all fairly decisive, with Curry (90%) at point guard, Harden (86%) at shooting guard, Leonard (62%) at small forward, Antetokounmpo (59%) at power forward and Jokic (48%) at center.
  • Eighty-two percent said the Clippers made the best offseason moves, followed by the Pelicans at 11%. The Nets and Jazz both got votes. Leonard (67%) was named the player acquisition most likely to have the biggest impact, while Utah’s trade for Mike Conley was the most underrated move (36%).
  • Zion Williamson was a clear choice for Rookie of the Year and the rookie who will be the best player in five years, with both numbers at 68%. Ja Morant received 29% support in the ROY poll, while Darius Garland was at 4%.
  • Leonard was picked as both the best overall defender (45%) and the best perimeter defender (59%) in the league. Rudy Gobert was selected as best interior defender (93%), while Draymond Green was named the most versatile (38%).
  • Gregg Popovich was a runaway winner as best coach at 55%, followed by Erik Spoelstra (17%), Mike Budenholzer (10%) and Steve Kerr (7%).
  • The Nuggets were chosen as the most fun to watch by 31% of GMs and the team with the best home-court advantage by 38%.

Charania’s Latest: Dinwiddie, Zion, A. Holiday, Ayton

Earlier this morning, we passed along a pair of reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic, who revealed that DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs are discussing a contract extension, while Pascal Siakam is seeking a maximum-salary extension from the Raptors.

Charania’s latest “Inside Pass” round-up at The Athletic includes a few more notes from around the NBA, so let’s round up the highlights…

  • Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and the NBA met on Thursday to discuss his plan to convert his contract into a digital investment vehicle, sources tell Charania. The NBA had wanted to nix Dinwiddie’s plan, but the point guard insists it doesn’t violate the league’s CBA and intends to move forward with it. According to Charania, the league will reconvene over “potential next steps.”
  • With the NBA instituting a new rule requiring teams to submit accurate height measurements for their players, Charania notes that Zion Williamson‘s height was one of the more notable entries of the last week. The Pelicans‘ power forward came in at just 6’6″.
  • Charania points to Pacers guard Aaron Holiday and Suns center Deandre Ayton as two players who appear to be primed for big sophomore NBA seasons. As Charania explains, Holiday will take over as Indiana’s backup point guard behind Malcolm Brogdon, while Suns officials, coaches, and players have all raved about Ayton’s work ethic leading up to the 2019/20 campaign.

Pelicans Notes: Williamson, Griffin, Offseason

Pelicans players, coaches and executives alike are trying to shield phenom Zion Williamson from as much of the pressure and spotlight that comes with being the most-hyped player since LeBron James that they can, but it may be a futile endeavor, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Vardon admits it’s an admirable strategy, to try to create an environment in which Williamson matures into an adult naturally, to the degree that’s possible as a professional basketball player. But it’s hard to convince people that this is Jrue Holiday‘s team when everybody and their mother at media day only wants to hear from Zion, even if it meant waiting after the Pels purposely didn’t bring him out until later.

“He’s still 19, a very young 19,” Pelicans’ Executive VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “I think Zion is finding more comfort just with himself as a man, as a person. And that’s really important to us. We don’t have expectations that we are hoisting on him with the players. It’s really about finding himself, finding comfort with his teammates, finding his role and we’re blessed. All Zion wants to do is win.”

But whatever Griffin says, the NBA didn’t “put (the Pelicans) on national TV 30 times” because of anybody but Zion, and New Orleans knows this. So try as they might, the Pelicans probably won’t be able to protect Williamson from what’s coming at him this season.

There’s more news this evening from the Big Easy:

  • As training camp gets underway, William Guillory of The Athletic writes that the Pelicans’ uncertainty entering camp might be higher than it is with any other NBA franchise, as New Orleans only returns five of 20 players from last season’s roster – Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Darius Miller, Jahlil Okafor, and Frank Jackson.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com explores how Griffin was able to make good on his promise to bring multiple, accomplished NBA veterans to New Orleans when he took over in April. One example? Griffin managed to bring in J.J. Redick, Derrick Favors, and Nicolo Melli, a trio that boasts a combined 30-plus seasons of professional experience.
  • ICYMI, Luke Adams took a look at how New Orleans was able to successfully transition from one franchise player to another in the span of a few months, among other Pelicans’ related tidbits, as part of our 2019 Offseason in Review series.

Zion Williamson ‘Couldn’t Ask For Better Situation’ With Pelicans

This year’s first overall pick Zion Williamson is preparing for his first NBA season and the Duke product could not be more thrilled with the situation he’s in. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Williamson said that landing in New Orleans has been conducive to his style of play.

“I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” he said. “The Pelicans keep up the pace constantly, just the way I like it. I am already working with members of the technical staff and the idea of running is emphasized in each exercise. I’m sure that our offensive schemes will allow me to be lethal for the next season.”

Williamson, 19, figures to be an integral part of the Pelicans’ postseason aspirations in his rookie season. Despite trading away superstar Anthony Davis, New Orleans’ lineup will consist of Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick, Williamson and others. Williamson believes it’s a core that can potentially win a title.

“I think we can compete for a championship,” Williamson added. “Yes, I am convinced that this team can have the NBA title as a goal…I’d be lying if I said something different.”

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Ball, Holiday, J. Johnson

Zion Williamson appeared to be fully healed from a bruised knee during a promotional appearance today in Harlem, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The first pick in this year’s draft performed two acrobatic dunks during the 15-minute session, delighting the crowd and a few fortunate youngsters who will appear alongside him in an ad for Air Jordans.

Williamson has been out of the spotlight since concerns about his knee ended his Summer League stint after one half. However, the Pelicans called it minor at the time, and Bondy said he looked to be 100% today as he soared to the hoop.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • During his appearance this week on teammate Josh Hart‘s LightHarted Podcast, Lonzo Ball said he is looking forward to teaming with Jrue Holiday in the Pelicans’ backcourt (hat tip to Christian Rivas of Lonzo Wire). Ball and Holiday both finished in the top 10 in Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating last season, and both were among the top five in 2017/18. “Jrue is one of the most underrated players, in my opinion; I can’t wait to play with him on both sides of the court,” Ball said. “That’s going to be a lot of fun.”
  • Although the Pelicans could use another veteran presence, it’s unlikely that they’ll be the team to sign Joe Johnson, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans already has 18 players under contract, including both two-way slots, plus reported deals with Jalen AdamsJavon Bess and Aubrey Dawkins. The team may get a Disabled Player Exception in the wake on an injury to Darius Miller, but Guillory expects his playing time to go to somebody already on the roster, such as Kenrich Williams or Nicolo Melli.
  • The Pelicans told Williamson and fellow rookie big man Jaxson Hayes to be careful about bulking up over the offseason, Guillory adds in the same piece. The organization believes both players, who are still only 19, may grow a few more inches and they don’t want extra weight to make them more susceptible to injuries in the future.