NEW ORLEANS – Seeing is believing, believing is seeing... Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson live and in person... it's something else.
Tuesday night, the Trail Blazers got their first look at Zion and he proved to be a force down low.
After Portland got off to a hot start in the first quarter, it looked as though the Blazers could be on their way to an easy victory in the Big Easy.
But, the Pelicans climbed their way back into it, in part, because of the points in the paint from the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick. New Orleans ended up taking it to the Blazers, blowing out the Trail Blazers, 138-117.
It was Williamson’s first game back from an ankle sprain. It’s safe to say he’s feeling a lot better.
He scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting in just his ninth game of his young NBA career.
At 6’6” and 284 pounds, Zion is a beast to deal with. But, the Blazers seemed a bit surprised by Williamson’s quickness.
Following Tuesday’s game, Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts described the challenges that the 19-year-old brings to the court.
“He’s dynamic. He’s very explosive, quick jumper, quick reactor, and he was quick to the ball. He first step was quick, so with that strength and quickness it’s a tough matchup,” Stotts said.
Williamson is averaging 19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists so far this season.
He played just 28 minutes Tuesday night thanks to both teams pulling their starters early in the final quarter with the game well in-hand.
Damian Lillard, who finished with 20 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the loss discussed how the Williamson has found success so early in his NBA career.
He’s just really strong, really physical, athletic and you know, he lives in the paint. I think with his strength and athleticism it’s a lot of pressure on guys to try not to foul him and also, just try not to give him position to where he gonna be getting dunks and lay-ups… It’s just him being tough to deal with. -- Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard
Yes, Williamson got to the free throw line, too.
He went 11-for-14 from the charity stripe.
It begs the question: Can an NBA rookie get ‘superstar’ calls already?
If you ask CJ McCollum... yes, he is...
“He’s strong, finishes well, and is a fast kid. He already gets the superstar calls.” McCollum said with a smile.
It’s not just Zion’s bullish way about him, it’s also that there hasn’t been too many opportunities to scout him with him only playing a total of nine games up to this point.
“You defend him with all five,” McCollum said. “Try to make it difficult. Keep him off the line. I think he had 30 on all lay-ups and free throws… Try to keep him away from the basket and hope the refs don’t call fouls. I don’t know. He’s only played like seven games, so people haven’t figure out how to stop him yet.”
The game will undoubtedly catch up with Zion. Players will figure out how to defend him. But, Zion will develop and grow, too. Which makes for an intriguing chess match for many years to come.