Last season, Zion Williamson didn’t play, suffering an ankle injury during the summer that kept him sidelined as the Pelicans tried to carry on without him.
This year, things seem considerably different. Williamson is expected to be ready to go for training camp, where he will join the likes of CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and others, with New Orleans aiming to make a push for the playoffs.
“He’s in fantastic shape,” strength and conditioning coach Jasper Bibbs told Will Guillory of The Athletic. “He’s been committed to putting in the work day in and day out. I’m really proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s a better athlete now than he’s ever been.”
Williamson, a former No. 1 overall pick, was the beneficiary of a five-year, $193-million max rookie extension back in July.
He averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 61 games in 2020-21, before suffering the foot injury while playing basketball over the summer.
“This summer, we came up with a plan,” Bibbs told Guillory. “He committed to the plan. We wanted Zion to not only have a great individual season, but we also wanted to focus on what he could do to help the team win. We wanted to develop him to be more resilient and to better handle the demands of being a very explosive athlete at his size.
“We focused on addressing body composition — his body weight, body fat, etc. — while maintaining and improving flexibility, strength and power. We also focused on improving his overall fitness. The more weight he carries around, the more stress it puts on the body. We focused on aerobic and anaerobic basketball-specific conditioning.
“One of the main goals was to get Zion back to the same athletic ability he had before the injury. In the process, he’s improved athletically. I truly think he’s a better athlete now than he was before. Once you guys see him on the court, I think you’ll agree.”