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Hop aboard the Zion hype bandwagon: His trainer says he’s ‘in fantastic shape’

2022 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans warms up before the game against the Phoenix Suns during Round 1 Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

It’s a bit of analysis that echoes across seemingly every Western Conference preview when talk turns to the Pelicans:

“If Zion Williamson can stay healthy...”

It’s a big “IF” — across three seasons Williamson has played in 85 games and missed 141, including all of last season. But following his foot surgery he has been with a new strength and conditioning coach in Jasper Bibbs, and Bibbs talked up Zion to William Guillory of The Athletic.

“He’s in fantastic shape,” Bibbs told The Athletic. “He’s been committed to putting in the work day in and day out. I’m really proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s a better athlete now than he’s ever been...

“We focused on addressing body composition — his body weight, body fat, etc. — while maintaining and improving flexibility, strength and power. We also focused on improving his overall fitness. The more weight he carries around, the more stress it puts on the body. We focused on aerobic and anaerobic basketball-specific conditioning. One of the main goals was to get Zion back to the same athletic ability he had before the injury. In the process, he’s improved athletically...

“I’m very happy with his commitment to not only his conditioning, but his commitment to doing all the tedious soft-tissue work, the stretching and his nutrition. He’s been phenomenal with his nutrition. I’m very happy about that for him. As he continues his NBA career, it’s amazing that he’s starting to develop these habits right now at such a young point in his career.”

Bibbs would not give up Zion’s weight (of course he didn’t). However, everyone will be able to see in a week how he looks and is moving.

There have been questions about Zion’s workout habits and style of play, but when he has been on the court he looks every bit the No.1 pick and generational talent he has been projected to be. Two seasons ago, when Stan Van Gundy made him more of a point forward at times, Zion averaged 27 points a game shooting 61.1%, plus 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game, and he looked like the best interior scorer in the game. Now pair him with the shooting and shot creation of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, surrounded by good role players (Larry Nance, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas) and suddenly the Pelicans look much more dangerous.

If Zion can stay healthy.