Zion Williamson says minutes restriction is ‘very tough’

Zion Williamson’s bubble experience has been more like a bubble-wrapping experience thus far, and he is having difficulty with the imposed limits.

The New Orleans star opened up to reporters on Sunday about the minutes restriction that the Pelicans have had him on for their seeding games.

“It’s very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over, that horn is for me and I have to come out the game,” Williamson said, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “Also, when I do catch the flow of the game, like I said, that horn goes off and it’s for me.

“It’s still fun but I guess, like you said, it’s not to that full extent as y’all are used to seeing,” he went on. “I’m a competitor, I want to stay on the court. When I’m coming out of the game, my competitive side of me that I want to stay in. I guess that does affect the fun a little bit, but not too much.”

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports By Darryn Albert | Last updated 8/2/20

Zion Williamson makes history in latest Pelicans win

The New Orleans Pelicans have been the real deal since getting Zion Williamson back and healthy, and the 2019 No. 1 overall pick is more than living up to his draft status.

Williamson went 11-of-16 and scored 24 points in the Pelicans’ 116-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. The 24-point game marked Williamson’s 10th straight 20-plus-point game, which is an NBA record for a teenager. The previous record was nine straight 20-plus point games by a teen, held by Carmelo Anthony.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | By Larry Brown | Last updated 2/29/20

Could Zion propel Pelicans into playoffs? The Lakers hope not

The New Orleans Pelicans were rocked by two seismic events this season. One was the knee injury suffered by rookie Zion Williamson in his first game of Summer League, followed by an actual earthquake that shut down the game. The second was Zion’s earth-shattering debut in January, when he exploded for 17 straight points in a comeback effort against the Spurs that was only derailed when he was pulled because of a minutes restriction.

Since that loss to San Antonio, New Orleans (25-33) has gone 8-5 and vaulted to 10th in the West, 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies for the final playoff spot. It won’t be easy, but the Pels could slip into the postseason, and if they do, no team wants to face them in Round 1 — even the Lakers.
New Orleans — which lost at the Lakers, 118-109, on Tuesday night — is dramatically better with Zion, and it’s not just because of his 23.2 points and seven rebounds a game. Williamson, who scored 29 points against the Lakers, allows Brandon Ingram to play his natural position of small forward, and minimizes the time New Orleans must play Jaxson Hayes and Jahlil Okafor. Hayes is a fine prospect, but 19-year-old big men not named Zion Williamson usually don’t contribute positive minutes. 

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By Sean Keane | Last updated 2/25/20

10 Things We Learned From Zion Williamson’s NBA Debut

Almost eight months after the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and the right to select Duke’s Zion Williamson, the chosen one finally made his NBA debut in a Wednesday night game against the San Antonio Spurs. Media converged on the Smoothie King Arena, ESPN assigned its grumpiest broadcast team of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and Zion was in the starting lineup at power forward. He started slowly, and the game the game was sloppy at first — and Van Gundy was ignoring the game and talking about hot dog eating records early on. 

But in an electric stretch of the fourth quarter, Zion put up 17 points, three rebounds and two assists to remind everyone exactly why he’s the most hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in just 18 minutes, and while the Spurs held off a furious Pelicans comeback, it felt like Zion was the winner of the night.
Here’s 10 things we learned from Zion’s debut:

1. Nine months off makes you rusty: Zion’s last competitive basketball game was March 31 of last year, not counting the earthquake-interrupted Summer League game during which Zion didn’t play in the second half. You could see it in little things, like his five turnovers, some from simply mishandling passes on the move. But he also got comfortable by the fourth quarter, grabbing rebounds, finishing lobs, hitting teammates for easy buckets and knocking down effortless threes from the top of the arc. After two straight threes, he had perhaps his most impressive play, missing a layup against Jakob Poeltl, but using his speed and strength to zip around Poeltl, rebound his own miss and put it back. Not only did he get more comfortable throughout the game, he got far more comfortable through the fourth quarter when coach Alvin Gentry let him stay in the matchup for an extended stretch.

2. The Pelicans are going to have tremendous spacing: We knew that Zion could have similar gravity to Giannis Antetokounmpo, with defenses forced to pack the paint to stop him down low. Gregg Popovich, a pretty smart NBA coach, had defenders dropping way back on Zion, daring him to shoot. And while the Pelicans had trouble knocking them down, Zion’s gravity led to a lot of open shots on the perimeter. New Orleans is already third in the NBA in three-pointers — and fifth in percentage — and that should only improve. Especially if Zion is drilling outside shots with ease like he was in the fourth quarter.

3. Zion took a lot of outside shots during rehab: Zion had never made more than three three-pointers in a game before Wednesday night, when he hit four in a row in a fourth-quarter explosion. Clearly his restrictions on running didn’t keep him from putting up outside shots. Yes, his shot looks flat, but he’s shooting it with tremendous confidence. And if a defender is playing off him, it doesn’t matter if the shot has any arc to it, because there’s no one there to block it.

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Originally Posted on Yardbarker | By Sean Keane  |  Last updated 1/23/20


More than two months after New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson underwent knee surgery, the star rookie continues to make progress in his rehabilitation and the Pelicans reportedly still expect him to make his debut this season.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Williamson is scheduled to begin contact drills within the next two weeks, a key step in his recovery from surgery on his torn meniscus.

According to the report, New Orleans won’t place a firm timetable on Williamson’s return to the court, but the organization “fully anticipates” that he’ll return this season.

While the rookie was scheduled to miss only six-to-eight weeks when he first had surgery, the Pelicans have used the additional time to work extensively with the 19-year-old on his dietary habits. Furthermore, New Orleans is helping Williamson learn how to walk and move in ways that will allow his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame to move far more smoothly with less strain on his ligaments and bones.

The rookie sensation has yet to make his debut in the regular season, but he’s certainly closer to making it happen than a few weeks ago. While the recovery process has been extensive, the Pelicans (9-23) can afford to take the long-term approach with their star.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Matt Johnson  |  Last updated 12/27/19


The college hoops 2010s all-decade team

The 2010s were a wonderful time in college basketball that saw a variety of great teams and great players come through some great arenas and gyms in the country. There were can’t-miss one-and-dones as well as four-year players who developed over time. Some became big-time NBA stars, and others found their professional paths taking them elsewhere.

We will attempt to wade through all the great talent of the past decade and pick the players to fill our 13 allotted spots to form our All-Decade team. The list includes two No. 1 overall picks and eight Naismith Award winners. Enjoy! 1 of 13

Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Brunson has the distinction of starting for two national championship teams. In 2016 he was more of a role player, as Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beater to beat North Carolina for the NCAA championship. He was a much larger part of the equation for a Villanova team that in 2017-2018 was ridiculously efficient and a lethal three-point shooting squad. The national Player of the Year was the perfect point guard for a team whose offense had some many diverse weapons but needed the right leader to bring it all together. He averaged 18.9 points and 4.6 assists for the 2018 national champions. 2 of 13

Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Davis may be the best player of the 2010s and certainly had the best freshman season of the decade. Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game in 2011-2012, earning him national Freshman of the Year honors as well as numerous Player of the Year awards. His 188 blocks that season were more than what most Division I teams had all year. To top it all off, Davis led Kentucky to the 2012 national championship where he earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.  3 of 13

Jimmer Fredette, BYU

“Jimmer Mania” ushered us into this decade. As a senior in 2010-2011, Fredette led the nation in scoring (28.9 ppg) and was the consensus National Player of the Year. Despite playing at BYU, his games were of national interest and his scoring exploits were a regular feature on highlight shows…including a 47-point effort against over Utah where he hit a half-court shot to close out a 32-point first half. He set many school and Mountain West Conference records and became a folk hero of sorts for fans around the country who were craving a Steph Curry-like, long-range gunner. 

4 of 13

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Hield was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year but it was his senior season that stands out as one of the best of the decade. In 2015-2016, Hield averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 45.7 percent from three and winning the Wooden Award as the top player in the nation. This is how good Hield was: After scoring 46 points in a win over Kansas at “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks fans gave him an ovation. He would lift the Sooners to the 2016 Final Four before a nine-point effort from Hield ended their season in a 44-point route by Villanova.  5 of 13

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Unlike many on this list, Kaminsky wasn’t a highly rated high school star nor was he the prototypical scorer one associates with an eventual national Player of the Year. He broke out during his junior season when he finally made it into the starting lineup and raised his scoring average from 4.2 to 13.9 ppg. As a senior, it increased to 18.8 points, which was quite a feat considering the Badgers played a deliberate style of offense. He was huge in Wisconsin’s win over undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four before losing to Duke in the NCAA championship game. Not only was Kaminsky tough to deal with in the post, but he also shot over 41 percent from three during that senior season.  6 of 13

Frank Mason III, Kansas

Mason was many different things during his four years at Kansas. He was a role player who was the tough-minded point guard then became an All-Defensive player as a junior. As a senior he shined, averaging 20.9 points and 5.2 assists, winning the Bob Cousy Award, and he became the national Player of the Year. It wasn’t just that he was a good player all year, but he also was at his best in the biggest games and one of the toughest guards of this decade. 

7 of 13

Doug McDermott, Creighton

McDermott had arguably the best four-year career of anyone in the past decade. He was a three-time First Team All-American, a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and the 2013-2014 leading scorer and Wooden Award winner. When he finished his college career, he was fifth all time in scoring. He could put up points in a variety of ways as a post player and a shooter. (He made 49 percent of his threes as a junior.) He wasn’t just a great scorer though. As a senior he gave up his scholarship and became a walk-on to give a teammate a scholarship opportunity.  8 of 13

Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Okafor dominated the paint in Duke’s national championship season of 2014-2015. He was one of the more efficient big men whose combination of footwork and soft touch overwhelmed opponents who already had to deal with Duke’s other weapons. For the year, Okafor averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while winning the ACC’s Player of the Year Award. That team had a major impact on Mike Krzyzewski’s recruiting philosophy of taking on more and more one-and-done players.  9 of 13

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

People tend to forget about how good Sullinger, a Columbus native, was for Ohio State. As a freshman, he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds and helped lead the Buckeyes to a 34-3 record and the top overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. He led them to the Final Four the following year, as his stats stayed around the same but he became a much better outside shooter. 

10 of 13

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Valentine was a do-everything offensive talent at Michigan State. In his senior season, he averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists for the Spartans and won several national Player of the Year Awards. In a win over Kansas, Valentine became just the fourth Spartan to record a triple-double, joining Magic Johnson, Draymond Green and Charlie Bell. His unique blend of size and athleticism mixed with being a 44 percent three-point shooter made him a matchup nightmare.  11 of 13

Kemba Walker, UConn

Walker’s run in March 2011 is legendary. The Huskies finished 9-9 in the Big East standings but used an epic five-wins-in-five-nights conference tournament run (which included a buzzer beater against Pittsburgh) to lock down an NCAA Tournament berth. Once in the Big Dance, Walker carried UConn on his back and led it to the program’s third national championship. In that junior season, he averaged 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists and was a finalist for several Player of the Year Awards.  12 of 13

Zion Williamson, Duke

Have you heard of him? Williamson took college basketball by storm in 2018-2019, as it seemed as if every moment of his college career was dissected and debated. It was certainly covered by ESPN with a streaming series and wall-to-wall coverage of his exploits. (The network even had a camera devoted to him when he was injured.) His powerful yet graceful dunks filled highlight shows, but it was his motor and smile that made him a fan favorite. Sure the media overkill turned some fans away, but his impact on the sport was undeniable even if for just one season. 

13 of 13

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Young led the nation in scoring in 2017-2018 with a 27.4 ppg average. He also led the country in assists that season (8.7), becoming the first player to ever head both categories. Seriously…how does that happen? He got off to a hot start at the beginning of the season before the Sooners cooled off a bit during conference play, as turnovers and his defense were criticized. Still there was no playmaker like Young all decade long. His 22 assists against Northwestern State tied the single-game record.

By: Shiloh Carder


What happens if Washington Wizards win NBA Draft Lottery?

One of the goals for the Washington Wizards coming into the 2018-2019 season was to get 50 wins. They ended the season with 50 losses. The disappointing season led to Wizards securing the sixth-best lottery odds for the 2019 NBA Draft, with a 9% chance at the number one pick.

Big picture: Wizard’s star point guard John Wall will be out for most, if not all, of the 2019-2020 season with a torn Achilles. With the Wizards having little cap space to sign top free agents this summer, they will look to build through the draft.

The dream scenario: The best-case scenario for the Wizards is getting the No. 1 overall pick. The clear-cut best player in this draft is Zion Williamson. Williamson could be an instant star in the NBA and has the ability to instantly turn the direction of a slumping franchise around.

Zion Williamson breakdown:

  • Williamson is a 6-foot-7, 284-pound forward from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is only 18 years old.
  • Last season at Duke, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game.
  • Williamson has the body build of an NFL defensive end, but set Duke’s record in vertical leap with 40 inches and has the ability to dunk from the free throw line.
  • Williamson was named ACC rookie of the year and ACC player of the year. He was also named Naismith college player of the year and AP player of the year.

What will the Wizards do this summer if they strike the jackpot and land Zion Williamson?

Who is under contract The Wizards currently have only five players under contract for the 2019-2020 season not including Williamson. Those five players — John Wall, Bradley Beal, Ian Mahinmi, Troy Brown and Jordan McRae — take up nearly $90 million of the Wizards cap space. The projected salary cap for next season is $109 million.

The Howard situation: Dwight Howard barely saw the floor last season due to an injury.

  • He has a player option of about $5.5 million.
  • Howard picked up his option, giving him a spot on the Wizards next season.

The Parker option: Jabari Parker played very well for the Wizards last season, averaging 15 points and 7.2 rebounds after he got traded from the Bulls.

  • Parker has a team option of $20 million for next season. While Parker played well, that is too steep of a price to pay for him.
  • The Wizards will decline his team option making Parker a free agent.
  • However, the Wizards will not let Parker walk. They will re-sign him to a two year, $18 million deal with a player option in year two.

Wizards’ free agents: Besides Jabari Parker, the Wizards have seven of their players from last season hitting free agency. Bobby Portis, Tomas Satoransky, Sam Dekker, Chasson Randle and Thomas Bryant will all be restricted free agents meaning the Wizards can match an offer another team gives them. Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green will be unrestricted free agents.

Full Article

By: Matthew Levin

Duke makes big mistake by not going to Zion on final possession in loss

Duke was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, losing 68-67 to Michigan State in their Elite Eight clash. While the game was close for nearly the entire second half and thrilling to watch, the Blue Devils made a baffling decision on their final possession.

Duke was down 68-66 with just under six seconds remaining. The Blue Devils were taking the ball out from the baseline after a review showed that Michigan State had knocked the ball out of bounds. I thought for sure the ball was going to Zion Williamson, but instead he drifted away from the passer, while the ball went into RJ Barrett, who was closer to the side where the inbounds pass was.

Barrett drove to the basket and went up in traffic for a shot and got fouled. Just a 66.5 percent free throw shooter, Barrett missed the first attempt. He tried to miss the second attempt, but it actually bounced in. Duke fouled Michigan State on the ensuing inbound and lost when the Spartans dribbled away with the ball.

Duke’s big mistake was not going to its best player, Williamson. He’s the guy who has carried the Blue Devils through their toughest moments and closest games. He delivered late against UCF. He’s the one you want with the ball with the game on the line.

After so many close calls at the end of Duke’s previous games, it’s not really surprising that the Blue Devils’ luck ran out. You can’t have so many games come down to the final play and expect each one to go your way. But you also have to give yourself the best chance to win, and by not going to Zion, Duke didn’t do that.

Original Article

By: Larry Brown

Takeaways from the NCAA Tournament bracket reveal

The brackets have been revealed and the NCAA Tournament is right around the corner. After an absolutely insane week of conference tournament play, the NCAA popped bubbles and handed out seeds, filling out the 68-team field.

This March’s edition of madness is sure to have just as much drama as every prior year. The bracket revealed Sunday will not leave college basketball fans unsatisfied.

Here then are six big takeaways from the bracket reveal:

1. Duke is a deserving top overall seed

Following the return of Zion Williamson and run to the ACC Tournament Championship, Duke was rewarded with the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s likely the right choice, given the somewhat nebulous rules about evaluating teams with injured players (three of their five losses came without their best player).

Technically, the committee can put less weight on Duke’s struggles without Zion. If you ignore those losses, Duke’s placement atop the bracket is the right call.

2. ACC with a strong showing in No. 1 seeds

Virginia and North Carolina joined their ACC rival on the top line. This is the first time a conference has earned three number one seeds since the Big East did so in 2009. Both earned their spot. Virginia has just three losses all season, two of which came to a full-strength Duke team. North Carolina beat Duke twice, and also boasts wins over Gonzaga, Louisville, and Virginia Tech.

Gonzaga remained the top seed out West, despite losing in the WCC Tournament final. The committee rewarded the Zags for their entire body of work, rather than punishing them for one loss versus a strong team. Saint Mary’s was given an 11 seed, nearly in the at-large field had they not beaten the Zags.

3. Two seeds are a dangerous group

This season, eight teams have separated themselves from the pack. Four were given top seeds and the other four followed right behind on the two-line. Michigan and Michigan State both received two seeds despite the outcome of their game earlier in the day. Sparty has a bit of a gripe about being placed in Duke’s region, but the NCAA favors geography over the seed list, damning the Big Ten champs to the East region.

Tennessee and Kentucky both earned two seeds as well despite losing in the SEC Tournament this week. Tennessee’s neutral site victory over the Wildcats this week likely put the Vols a tick ahead on the seed line, landing them in the South Region.

4. Interesting teams squeak into the tourney

The most noteworthy team sneaking in to the last four at-large spots is Belmont. When the Bruins lost the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament final to Murray State, they promptly took a seat on the edge of the bubble. Thankfully, the NCAA favored Belmont’s success in the few big games the Bruins played over the mediocrity of middling power conference teams.

Belmont will be joined in Dayton by Temple, Arizona State and St. John’s. Chris Mullins’ team tumbled down the stretch, ending with a blowout loss in the Big East tournament. The Red Storm’s last two weeks sent them to Dayton.

5. No snub feels egregious

Of the teams listed as the first four out of the Dance, none stand out as particularly scorned. UNC-Greensboro lost in its conference tournament, but didn’t have the quality wins on its resume to survive.

The other three, Indiana, Clemson and TCU, came from power conferences, where they all went .500 or worse in league play. The Horned Frogs were 5-5 in Big XII play at one point and looked solidly in the field before collapsing. TCU lost six of its last eight regular season tilts and punched a ticket right to the NIT.

North Carolina State was not even given the benefit of the “Last Four Out” designation, yet had some intriguing metrics on its side. The Wolfpack were ranked 33rd by KenPom and the NCAA’s own NET calculation and were 26th per ESPN’s BPI.

6. There are some enticing first round matchups

Building a bracket can go a million ways, thankfully almost all of them leave the viewers happy at the end of the day. Just during the first two days of play we’ll be treated to some gems. Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, will get to coach his Minnesota team against Louisville, the school that fired his father. A talented Yale team will give an embattled LSU program its money’s worth (pun intended). Wisconsin will travel across the country to San Jose to face a red-hot Oregon team.

The bracket even gifts us some amazing match-ups between individual players. Ja Morant from Murray State will face Marquette sharp-shooter Markus Howard. Most intriguingly, two of the most unconscious shooters in the nation will square off when Wofford’s Fletcher Magee and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell go shot-for-shot.

By: Jeremy Brevard

Original article


Social Media’s Favorite Stars Battle it Out In AAU Game

Written by Myron Medcalf at ESPN.com

In a chaotic scene Wednesday, officials and police officers blocked doors and ordered a police barricade outside the Cashman Center because of fire-code concerns an hour before LaVar Ball’s Big Ballers squad, led by his son and elite 2019 recruit LaMelo Ball, was scheduled to face top recruit Zion Williamson and SC Supreme.

The Adidas Uprising Summer Championships game was played despite the fear that it would be canceled.

Fans stood six and seven rows deep hours before Williamson and Ball were scheduled to play. Dozens of people were waiting to get into the building when event officials and officers banned anyone else from entering the building an hour before tipoff.

Chris Rivers, the organizer of this week’s championships in Las Vegas, said that local police gave the green light for the AAU teams to play only one minute before tipoff.

“Unreal. Never seen anything like it,” Kansas coach Bill Self, who was on hand for the game, told ESPN.

Best environment I’ve ever seen for an AAU game. LaMelo Ball going against Zion Williamson tipping shortly.

In addition to Self, NBA players Damian Lillard, Thon Maker, Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins and LaMelo’s oldest brother, Lonzo Ball, were on hand to watch SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory.

LeBron James had planned to watch the Ball-Williamson showdown courtside, but he did not get out of his vehicle after he arrived, instead deciding to avoid the frenzy after a conversation with people associated with the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships, a source told ESPN.com.

James arrived with several people before choosing to skip an event that already had been dealing with overcrowding and local police threatening to shut it down, per the source.

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