Zion: Pelicans can be "special" in restarted NBA


It's been a long wait, but the NBA is finally about to get its first taste of the full Zion experience.

Throughout his lone year at Duke and in the lead-up to his selection as the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, the excitement grew to monstrous proportions for what Zion Williamson could do in the pros.

But with the Pelicans set to play a ton of high-profile, nationally-televised games early in the season, the hype train ground to a halt when Williamson had to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery just weeks before opening night.

When he finally was able to join the lineup though, it was tantalizing.

In 19 games, Williamson exhibited a few growing pains as he tested his repaired knee and adjusted to the speed of pro basketball. But he never looked out of his depth, even in his earliest performances.

Now with the NBA emerging from its coronavirus-induced hiatus, we're set to get our first look at a Pelicans squad that can feature a fully-healthy, unfiltered Zion. And they've got eight games to make their case for a spot in the playoffs.

"I think this team can be really special when we're all healthy," Williamson said when asked what he and his teammates are capable of. "It's just a matter of us coming together, fighting those mental battles of being in the bubble."

Williamson said he never stopped working throughout the nearly four-month layoff.

"Me and my stepdad just found different ways to stay in condition," Williamson said. "On court, off court, wherever we could find it."

When asked about where he found access to a basketball court amid a pandemic, the 19-year-old superstar simply demurred with his trademark smile. "I can't give away all my secrets," he said.

The challenge for Williamson and the Pelicans will be shaking off the rust quickly and finding the fastest path back to the on-court chemistry they worked so hard to develop this season.

The teams that can regain their footing the quickest will reap the biggest benefits of the NBA's eight-game sprint to the finish line. If the Pelicans can start hot out of the gate, they'll be in prime position to ensure their stay in Orlando won't be a short one.

One thing though is certain. Zion is ready. Is the NBA?