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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s advice for Zion Williamson: ‘Don’t rush the process’

Giannis Antetokounmpo was half a world away when Zion Williamson made his highly anticipated NBA regular-season debut in the New Orleans Pelicans’ showdown with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

A day later, the Milwaukee Bucks superstar offered up some advice for the Pelicans rookie, who is burdened with the pressure of being the NBA’s Next Big Thing.

“Don’t rush the process,” Antetokounmpo said as the Bucks continued preparations for a game against the Charlotte Hornets in Paris on Friday.

The considerable time difference between the States and France prevented Antetokounmpo from watching Williamson’s debut. He missed a sensational performance, as the rookie scored 22 points — including 17 in the fourth quarter — along with seven rebounds and three assists in only 18 minutes of action.

Even without seeing it, Antetokounmpo has seen enough of Williamson to know the 19-year-old is the real deal.

“You’re going to be a beast, the whole league knows you’re going to be a beast,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just take it step by step, day by day.”

Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, of course knows something about living up to expectations, although as a No. 15 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, he arguably did not feel as much pressure early on in his career as the No. 1 pick Williamson.

Subtle differences aside in what became Antetokounmpo’s career trajectory and what’s expected out of Williamson, the Bucks star believes patience is the name of the game for the rookie. Such an approach is made even more necessary in light of Williamson coming off a knee injury.

“Obviously he’s a tough kid. My advice that I give to him: Just have patience, work hard and make sure you’re healthy,” Antetokounmpo said. “Because I saw some highlights and saw he was wearing a sleeve on his knee that was hurting. Don’t rush, don’t rush the process.”

The Pelicans are not completely holding Williamson back as he familiarizes himself with the rigors of an NBA season. The team also plans to be creative in how Williamson’s development and health are managed as he continues to mature.

In other words, as Giannis said, it’s all about the process.