Zion: Time to get body ‘where it needs to be’

For New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, it’s time to turn the page to next season and focus on getting better — with his game and his body.

“I’ll talk to my coaches and see what I need to do better from their point of view,” Williamson said Thursday morning. “Talk to my player development coaches as well, see what I need to do better from their point of view. Just work on every part of my game and work on getting my body where it needs to be.”

Asked just where he felt he needed his body to be, Williamson said, “That’s a conversation I’ll have with my team. We’ll sit down, see what they need me to do better, then I can give you a better answer to that.”

The 2019-20 season was an up-and-down affair for Williamson, who won’t play in Thursday’s season finale against the Orlando Magic. He was injured to start the season, began to find his footing before the hiatus and then found himself back on a “burst restriction” in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida.

Williamson’s weight — he’s listed at 285 pounds — has been a topic of discussion since he was at Duke for his lone college season. Once he returned to the bubble from a medical family emergency and 13 days off from basketball activities, his weight and conditioning were once again at the forefront of the conversation.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Williamson said. “But I’m going to stick to the opinions of the people closest to me and my team and just go from there.”

In 24 games, Williamson averaged 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 58.3% from the field and going 6-of-14 from 3-point range — although four of those made 3s came in his debut against the San Antonio Spurs in January. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Williamson is the second rookie in NBA history to average 20 points per game while shooting at least 55% from the field, joining Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93).

Still, it was hard for Williamson to find a rhythm, as he missed the first 43 games of the season after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He also went through restrictions in his early games before starting to find his stride prior to the hiatus.

“There were a few rough patches where I was trying to get a rhythm,” Williamson said. “That’s part of the game and part of coming back from injury. But you know, I feel like the coaches and training staff handled it very well. Just to be able to play one minute in an NBA game, I’m grateful for that.”

The Pelicans fell short of making the playoffs, but Williamson said this season can be a “starting point” for the franchise to build on.

“I think we still might have some bumps and bruises, but I feel like the chemistry is going to be a lot better,” he said. “If we keep building that and have fun with it, I think we’ll be fine. … I think our future is bright. But we have to put the work in for that. That’s all I can say about that.”

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