HomeBasketball TodayZion Williamson lifts CJ McCollum's spirits with private pep talks

Zion Williamson lifts CJ McCollum’s spirits with private pep talks


CJ McCollum shared a few reasons why the Pelicans are excited to have Zion Williamson lead an NBA Playoffs run.

The New Orleans Pelicans are a hard team to figure out on a night-to-night basis but the underlying strategy is pretty straightforward. This team’s potential is capped by the capacity of Zion Williamson to perform at an All-NBA level consistently. Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum can only do so much, as evidenced by their previous NBA Playoffs experiences.

Herb Jones challenged Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum to lead the Pelicans to a top-six seed. Willie Green has issued stern warnings to the locker room. Williamson is taking things personally.

According to McCollum, the two-time NBA All-Star is just getting warmed up for a first-ever appearance in the NBA’s postseason pressure cooker.

“(Williamson) has been great. We’ve had a lot of conversations behind closed doors about what it takes to be successful. He’s been getting extra conditioning in for months at this point,” McCollum shared. “I think you could see it on the explosiveness, the ability to finish around the basket, the pace. Obviously, Point Zion is very hard to contain, to deal with the strength, the speed, the vision. Defensively he is doing better. He’s been rebounding. I think all those things are a testament to him absorbing a lot of information around him and then figuring out how to best apply that to himself. He’s done that.”

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The Pelicans NBA playoff fate rests on Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts to a dunk by guard CJ McCollum (3) during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Smoothie King Center.
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

The skeptical hot-take artists scattered throughout the national media have not been taking notice. Zion Williamson is letting the work do the talking and does not believe he is fully at peak conditioning by his lofty standards.

“I am getting there,” Williamson admitted. “Just stacking my days of extra conditioning over time. I am starting to see some of those results. I just gotta maintain and keep going.”

Williamson is averaging 22 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game since the NBA All-Star break. The Duke alum’s increased usage rate (27.4) has not significantly affected his True Shooting Percentage (59.5%). He is also averaging 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals, a sign of increased defensive focus.

However, McCollum laughed when asked about the out-of-nowhere spring-to-action blocks Williamson has been delivering lately. He had to because it’s practically a joke that people still question Williamson’s commitment and fitness levels.

“(The blocks) are incredible,” McCollum chuckled. “It’s the burst that he has when he goes from zero to 60. That burst is crazy.”

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About the Author

Chris Dodson has covered Louisiana high school and college basketball in spurts for over a decade. A basketball lifer from the bayou, his gumbo-stirring form matches his elbow jumper celebrations. Fast enough for varsity hoops, tall enough for a soccer scholarship. He has words and will travel, just not on the court.


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