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SportZion Williamson on NBA future, comparisons to LeBron: 'I'm just trying to be first Zion'

05:50  20 june  2019
05:50  20 june  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Zion Williamson , the projected No. 1 pick in Thursday's NBA draft, has lofty expectations for himself in his rookie season and beyond. NEW YORK — Zion Williamson isn’t concerned about expectations placed on him by others. “They can set them there, I don’t try to live up to them,” Williamson said.

Hear why Nick thinks Zion is the best NBA prospect since LeBron James. About First Things First : Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe team up on First Things First , a discussion and opinion-based studio program that covers all the headlines weekdays on FS 1 .

NEW YORK — Zion Williamson isn’t concerned about expectations placed on him by others.

“They can set them there, I don’t try to live up to them,” Williamson said. “I just try to be me, be the best version of myself that I can be.”

Williamson has his own lofty expectations he refreshingly wasn’t afraid to share.

“MVP, rookie of the year, eventually possibly defensive player of the year, Hall of Famer,” Williamson said. “If you don’t hold yourself to those standards or try to carry yourself as such, then I don’t know what you’re striving for.”

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Will Cain questions whether Duke Blue Devils basketball freshman Zion Williamson can be compared to NBA greats such as LeBron James, Charles Barkley or

The Lebron comparisons are just lazy. First things first , Lebron is a generational talent and from the looks of it so far Zion will be too. Given the physical tools Zion has coming in at 6'7" 280 with what I ' m sure will be counted as a 45"+ vertical leap in the combine, he will be a better rebounder than

At 18 years old, he’s ready to be the face of a franchise.

“If somebody doesn’t have that mindset, then I don’t know if they’re playing the right sport,” Williamson said.

And which team will that be? Williamson tried to be coy, as if he didn’t know which NBA team planned to select him in Thursday’s draft.

“If they drafted me,” Williamson prefaced a question about the New Orleans Pelicans.

“If I come there,” he said at the end of another question about New Orleans.

If the Pelicans – and new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin – don’t take Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick, it will be one of the biggest stunners in draft history.

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The world according to Zion: ‘I am ready to be the face [of a franchise]’ Zion Williamson wanted to make one thing clear. He didn’t go to one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans and order chicken fingers. In a half-hour session Wednesday before the NBA draft, Williamson liberally flashed his halogen grin, addressed the likelihood of starting his NBA career in New Orleans and buttressed questions about the great expectations he’s facing with reminders that he’s only 18 years old. He also made it a point to clear up that he didn’t disrespect the iconic Commander’s Palace, an institution in the city as revered as the Manning family, with an order fit for Popeyes.

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Zion Williamson missed 44 games. He wasn’t in top basketball condition. It was going to take him time to find his way, to adjust to the best league in the “ I was kind of looking to come in and just kind of fit in and just not try to mess up.” Forget screwing up. Williamson , averaging 22. 1 points on 57.6

The Pelicans are a team of the present and the future — perhaps with the brightest long-term outlook of any team in the NBA — and Williamson will play a significant role in both timelines.

“If I go there, I think I’ll like it,” he said.

What’s not to like? New Orleans reached a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend to acquire Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three future first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 pick on Thursday, for All-Star center Anthony Davis.

That’s a lot of talent in the Big Easy, headlined by Williamson, who enters the draft with as much hype and excitement as any player since LeBron James in 2003.

But Williamson has no room for comparisons, either.

“Honestly, with the comparison stuff, it's nice, it's cool, but I don't look into it,” he said. “I just look to be myself. I'm not trying to be nobody. I'm just trying to be the first Zion.”

He captivated college basketball last season as a freshman at Duke with his high-flying,  powerful dunks. But his game is more than that – it’s a combination of strength, speed and agility and ability to rebound, block shots, dribble, pass and finish at the rim.

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Zion Williamson reflects on his team's 16-point blowout win of NC State. Zion also talks about the Zion also talks about the NBA All-Star Weekend, Floyd Mayweather in attendance for Duke vs. NC Barrett talks about his triple-double, which was in the fourth in Duke program history, the first since

FIRST THINGS FIRST | Zion Williamson on NBA Draft: " I ' m not trying to be nobody, I ' m just trying to be the first Zion "

His game is not perfect, and his shot, especially from three-point range, needs to improve. He said he’s working on shooting better from long range.

At Duke, Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds and shot 68% from the field, including 74.7% inside the three-point line. He was named player of the year by several outlets and was just the third freshman to win the award in the 58-year history of The Associated Press.

He is expected to be the third Duke player taken No. 1 overall since 1966.

“If I have the honor of going No. 1 ... you can’t even put it into words,” Williamson said. “I think my expression and body language will tell it all.”

So while Williamson didn’t want to outright acknowledge the Pelicans planned to draft him, he unveiled a brief scouting report and promised to answer questions with more depth after the draft.

On Ball: “He’s a great PG. He’s very old school, and I respect that about him.”

On Ingram, who also played for Duke: “He’s a bucket-getter. He can give you 25-30 (points) a night in the right situation.”

On Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry: “The assistant coaches at Duke and Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), they told me about (Gentry). He’s a great coach. Coach Gentry said he lets his players play.”

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Since the Pelicans won the draft lottery with a 6% chance on May 14, Williamson has met with team officials at least twice. That includes once in New Orleans where the Pelicans tried to sell him on the vision the franchise has under owner Gayle Benson and Griffin.

“If they were to draft me, coming to New Orleans they would try to make it not only about a business,” Williamson said. “It would be about joining a family, so that’s what I took away from it.”

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For 30 minutes on Wednesday, Williamson answered question after question. As he revealed during his freshman season at Duke, Williamson was charming, funny and engaging. Combine that with his smile and skill, and he makes for a marketable NBA player.

He explained professors at Duke looked at him askew when he sometimes arrived late to class because students stopped him on campus and wanted to take his picture. At 6-7, 285 pounds, Williamson just couldn't blend in, like his Blue Devils teammate and expected lottery pick Cam Reddish.

“I ran into so many kids, and they’d be like, ‘Where is Cam? I never see him around campus,’ ” Williamson said. “Cam was almost like a myth. They were like, ‘I don’t even know what he looks like. I just see him at the basketball games.’ ”

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He said he doesn’t have a deal with a shoe company yet — remember the blown shoe that led to a mid-season injury? — and isn’t sure if he’ll compete in the 2020 slam dunk contest during All-Star Weekend.

“It’s not like something I say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be in the dunk contest,’ ” Williamson said. “If I’m feeling it, if I’m in the mood for it around the time, yeah, I’ll think about it. But it’s not something I think about for like a whole year. When it comes around, I might do it.”

The shoe deal will come. Maybe he will participate in the dunk contest. But that's all secondary to what happens Thursday.

“There’s a lot of work, from outdoor courts to in the gym early, at night, sometimes all day,” Williamson said. “You look back on it and you just think to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m really here at the NBA draft hoping that my name gets called.’ It’s a lot of hard work. Just knowing all those hours you put in, all those sacrifices you made paid off for a reason."

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Zion Williamson on NBA future, comparisons to LeBron: 'I'm just trying to be first Zion'

Related slideshow: NBA mock draft (Provided by Yardbarker)

Zion Williamson on NBA future, comparisons to LeBron: 'I'm just trying to be first Zion'
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