Williamson relishing NBA debut as draft top pick prepares for Pelicans bow

Oleh John Skilbeck 22 Januari 2020 5
Williamson relishing NBA debut as draft top pick prepares for Pelicans bow

Zion Williamson admitted he "wanted to punch a wall or kick chairs" during his time in the treatment room - but the number one draft pick is now set for his NBA debut.

The 19-year-old is expected to play for the New Orleans Pelicans against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, with several reports saying he will be in the starting five.

Williamson, who shone for Duke during his one-season college career, is expected to a superstar in the NBA.

He has already signed a shoe deal reputedly worth $75million over seven years, and comparisons have often been drawn to LeBron James.

The debut game may reveal several tells as to how Williamson will cope in the league, with the teenager relieved to have recovered fully from the torn meniscus he suffered before the season got under way.

That blow occurred in October, setting back a player who had been highly impressive in preseason games.

He said rehab was "long and strenuous", adding: "I just wanted to punch a wall or kick chairs. It was frustrating not being able to move your body the way you want to, not to make any athletic movements.

"It was tough, especially because I was 19 and hadn't played my first NBA game. It was tough but I battled through."

Williamson may make the smoothest of transitions, or it could take the young forward a while to attune to the pace of the game.

One thing is for sure, it will be almost a whole new ball game, compared to turning out for Duke.

"This is my first NBA game. This is business now. It's different," he said. "I think there will be a learning curve. I don't think it'll be nothing dramatic.

"I'm not really putting pressure on it at all. I love to play basketball so I'm just looking to go out there, have fun, and compete."

He realises the spotlight will fall on him, and his debut showing will be heavily scrutinised.

"I know the people in New Orleans are going to show a lot of love because that's what they do. But from the other side, all I can do is invite the love. If they want to bring it, they can bring it," Williamson said.

"I'm just 19. I'm taking all this in and I'm just going to enjoy the process."

Born in Salisbury, North Carolina, Williamson said it felt as though the people of New Orleans had "adopted me a bit".

"It's been great. The city's beautiful, the people are beautiful as well. They welcome me," he said.

"They show love everywhere I go and tell me they can't wait for me to get back out there."

Asked how good he could prove to be, Williamson told reporters: "Do I even get to determine that? My plan is to go out and contribute where coach needs me."

He hopes to provide capable support to Brandon Ingram, who is scoring 25.6 points per game this season.

"I had a lot of fun watching him," Williamson said. "In my opinion I think he's a definite All-Star, I've got to say that.

"He's come so far in just a few months since we've started, and I'm just looking to feed off that."

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John Skilbeck