Pelicans' Zion Williamson 'Went Back to Square One' for Training Amid NBA Hiatus

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 11, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  MARCH 8: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans handles the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 8, 2020 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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 2020 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans rookie superstar forward Zion Williamson stayed active and prepared during the league's four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, telling reporters he went back to basics with his training. 

"It just felt like I was five years old again," Williamson told reporters. "Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at five again. It was a great process to learn it all over."

Williamson entered the league with tremendous hype and met it after averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds during his first 19 games. That was despite sitting out the first three months with a torn meniscus.

The No. 1 overall draft pick out of Duke looks ready to dominate the league upon his return, and head coach Alvin Gentry praised Williamson's stepfather, Lee Anderson, for helping him stay ready for a restart.

"His stepfather did a fantastic job of working him out every day, of making him be in good conditioning when we got him back. He's made a lot of strides in his shooting, I think. Although we weren't together, he did a lot to improve his game."

On the latter note, Williamson agreed that we may be seeing something a bit different in his repertoire.

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"Yeah, I think there are going to be parts of my game that you didn't see before that you'll see when we start playing."

Williamson and the Pels need to hit the floor running as they look to make the playoffs. They sit 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

New Orleans is in a virtual tie with the Portland Trail Blazers (whose .439 winning percentage is one-hundredth of a point higher than the Pelicans' .438) and locked with the Sacramento Kings for ninth. The San Antonio Spurs sit a half-game behind that group.

Eight games remain for the 22 teams invited to finish out the season, but the good news for the Pels is they are guaranteed a chance to make the playoffs if they finish ninth and within four games of the eighth-place team, most likely the Grizz. New Orleans would then have to beat the eighth-place team in a pair of play-in games to advance to the quarterfinals.

It's a tough road to the playoffs for the Pels considering the standings gap and the competition around them, but a healthy and evolving Williamson is all they could ask for in an attempt to reach their goal.

New Orleans kicks off the regular-season restart on Thursday, July 30 versus the Utah Jazz at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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