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With Zion Williamson next, a look at NBA phenoms' first games against the Wizards

With Zion Williamson next, a look at NBA phenoms' first games against the Wizards

The Wizards are expected to get their first look at No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson on Friday night as they battle the New Orleans Pelicans at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. This should be their first glimpse of the phenom in any type of game, though they were supposed to see him last summer in Las Vegas, if you recall. Williamson hurt his knee in a previous Summer League game that was famously cancelled due to an earthquake.

There was anticipation then and there is plenty of it now, as Williamson has since become a sensation in the NBA. Though he has only played in 23 games, he has already done some extraordinary things. Williamson is averaging 22.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 27.9 minutes.

Against the Kings on Thursday night, Williams had 24 points on 12 shots in 21 minutes. His efficiency is not the type of stuff you see often, especially for a rookie.

And those are just the numbers. Anyone who has watched him play can attest to the unusual athletic gifts that he has.

"Explosive. Just dynamic," Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. "His athleticism is off the charts. His second jump is as good as everybody's first jump. He's a quick jumper. He's going to be a problem. He's going to be a problem for a lot of years. It's impressive what he's done in the limited minutes that he's played here."

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Williamson may be one of a kind with his strength, first step and leaping ability, but he's just the latest in a long line of star prospects to reach the NBA level. As he gets set to face the Wizards, here is a look at how some other rookie phenoms have fared in their first games against the franchise...

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL) - Nov. 9, 1969

24 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 10-22 FG, 48 minutes; Bullets won by 11

Larry Bird (BOS) - Oct. 19, 1979

12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 6-14 FG, 22 minutes; Celtics won by 37

Magic Johnson (LAL) - Jan. 9, 1980

14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, block, steal, 4-6 FG, 26 minutes; Bullets won by 2

Michael Jordan (CHI) - Oct. 26, 1984 (NBA debut)

16 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 5-16 FG, 40 minutes; Bulls won by 16

Shaquille O'Neal (ORL) - Nov. 7, 1992 

22 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 8-16 FG, 40 minutes; Magic won by 5

Allen Iverson (PHI) - March 4, 1997

18 points, 13 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 7-20 FG, 45 minutes; Bullets won by 1

Tim Duncan (SAS) - Nov. 26, 1997

18 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 5 turnovers, 9-15 FG, 41 minutes; Wizards won by 4

LeBron James (CLE) - Nov. 8, 2003

17 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, steal, block, 8-19 FG, 44 minutes; Cavs won by 13

Kevin Durant (SEA) - Jan. 6, 2008

19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 7-12 FG, 35 minutes; Wizards won by 22

Derrick Rose (CHI) - Dec. 6, 2008

15 points, 8 assists, 2 steals, 6-12 FG, 37 minutes; Bulls won by 7

Blake Griffin (LAC) - March 12, 2011

26 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 8-17 FG, 30 minutes; Clippers won by 21

Luka Doncic (DAL) - Nov. 6, 2018

23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, 9-16 FG, 33 minutes; Mavericks won by 19

Ja Morant (MEM) - Dec. 14, 2019

18 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, block, 5-11 FG, 28 minutes; Grizzlies won by 17

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Pelicans guard JJ Redick 'couldn't care less' if President Donald Trump doesn't watch NBA due to kneeling

Pelicans guard JJ Redick 'couldn't care less' if President Donald Trump doesn't watch NBA due to kneeling

Whether or not President Donald Trump watches NBA games makes no difference to New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick.

After the Pelicans and Utah Jazz opened the NBA's 2019-20 season restart Thursday night by kneeling during the anthem in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Redick gave his candid thoughts on a tweet where Trump said once a player kneels during the anthem "the game is over for me."

“First of all, I don’t think anybody in the NBA cares if President Trump watches basketball. I couldn’t care less,” Redick told Yahoo Sports. “As far as his base, I think regardless of the specificity of tweeting about the NBA, every tweet of his is meant to divide, every tweet is meant to incite, every tweet is meant to embolden his base. So [last week] was no different.”

RELATED: WIZARDS KNEEL WITH SUNS DURING NATIONAL ANTHEM AHEAD OF FIRST GAME IN SEASON RESTART

Trump's tweet, from last Tuesday, came two days before the Major League Baseball season opener between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees. Players and staff from both teams all took a knee together prior to the anthem before standing while it played.

Like the first game of the NBA's reopening from the bubble in Orlando, players and staff from the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers kneeled during the anthem prior to the second game. Players from every NBA team have the option to wear a message in support of social justice and racial equality in place of the name on their jerseys.

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“Look, we want people to enjoy the NBA and we love our fans, but I think there has to be some level of acceptance and acknowledgement in what our league is saying, what our league is doing and what is happening across this country,” Redick said. “And the people who are unwilling to acknowledge that, maybe they shouldn’t be fans.” 

One person who does support what the players are doing is the league's commissioner. Despite the NBA's long-standing rule that players must stand for the national anthem, Silver said players won't be disciplined.

“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," Silver said.

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Pelicans and Jazz kneel during national anthem of first game in NBA's return

Pelicans and Jazz kneel during national anthem of first game in NBA's return

After months of protests and a nationwide conversaton on social justice, how NBA players would treat the national anthem on Thursday night when the league returned to play had drawn much speculation. Ultimately, what happened was both teams -- the Jazz and Pelicans -- kneeled together in a show of solidarity ahead of the NBA's first regular season game since March.

Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and the Pelicans all took a knee and so did Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz. As they did, messages of 'Black Lives Matter' were shown on the court and the American flag on the screens surrounding it.

Both teams also wore 'Black Lives Matter' on their warmup shirts. The anthem was played on the piano and guitar by jazz musician Jon Batiste.

The NBA has made efforts to embrace the calls for social justice reform by players, coaches and other members of the league. One initiative was to allow players to put social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys in lieu of their names.

There has been an ongoing discussion of how the NBA can continue highlighting social justice issues while not serving as a distraction from world events in a negative way. Thursday showed us the national anthem will be a point of emphasis in that process.

Major League Baseball returned last week and featured players collectively kneeling before the national anthem. The league also stenciled on the mound a nod to the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

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Expect the NBA to continue raising awareness for social issues throughout the next few months as they play out the rest of the 2019-20 season at Disney World.

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