Sportress of Blogitude

Alvin Gentry: Zion Williamson ‘worked extremely hard’ during shutdown

A growing consensus is emerging that suggests Zion Williamson used the NBA’s lengthy hiatus to improve his game, get healthy and set himself up to make a huge impact on the court when the league resumes play on July 30.

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry became the latest person with knowledge of Williamson’s regimen during the layoff to praise the rookie for an impressive dedication to his craft.

“I’ve seen him a lot and we’ve talked a lot about things we expect him to do when everyone is back,” Gentry said, per William Guillory of The Athletic. “I think he’s worked extremely hard during the time away. I think, to some degree, you’ll see everybody a little rusty when we come back because we’ve been away for so long. But he’ll get himself right, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t pick up right where he left off.”

A Pelicans insider recently predicted that Williamson is “going to shock some people” when the league resumes play next month at the Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Williamson returned to action on Jan. 22 after missing the Pelicans’ first 45 games after suffering a torn right lateral meniscus last fall. The 19-year-old phenom ended up playing in 19 games before the NBA went on its indefinite hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In those appearances, the rookie averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists while posting a 58.9%/46.2%/64.5% shooting line.

When the league shut down in March, the Pelicans were 28-36 and slotted as the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference. The team will have to make up some serious ground during an abbreviated eight-game conclusion to the regular season, as New Orleans is 3.5 games behind in a chase for the conference’s final postseason spot.

Williamson flashed signs of being the generational talent he’s expected to become in his brief time this season at the NBA level. If the Pelicans are going to do some damage in the playoffs — should the team ultimately qualify — Williamson obviously will be the one on the court leading the way.