Charles Barkley Reveals How Pelicans’ Zion Williamson Can Get Healthy

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Zion Williamson has not played a minute of NBA basketball yet.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson, a 6’7″ and 285 pounder out of Duke averaged 22.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season and was the unanimous ACC player of the year.

Monday made six weeks since Williamson had surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee. Believed to be a franchise player, it was projected that he’d miss six to eight weeks and many believed that Christmas Day could be his return.

The power forward’s play has been compared to anyone from Los Angeles Lakers All Star LeBron James, to New York Knicks power forward Julius Randle and Detroit Pistons slammer-jammer Blake Griffin.

His height and frame reminds me more of Charles Barkley.

“The kid is more explosive than I am,” Barkley told me of Williamson.

“He seems like a great kid too. He’s really explosive, he might want to learn to play basketball at a little lower level.”

During his NBA career, Barkley, a Naismith Hall of Famer turned NBA TNT analyst was just different on the basketball court.

He played bigger than he was! Going toe to toe with legends like Charles Oakley, Dale Davis, Shaquille O’Neal and Dennis Rodman, Barkley was a 6’4 bully even though he was listed at 6’8.

Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley (34) laughs at a foul call with Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan (23) in the first half 28 January 1996 at the United Center in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-82. Jordan scored 31 points, and Barkley scored 20 with 16 rebounds. AFP PHOTO Brian BAHR (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images)

Barkley also had a fluid dribble and decent jumper for a hooper at his size and he shifted between the small forward, power forward and center positions with ease. A cursory search on YouTube of his 76er days will have you amazed at his ability to push the rock on the fast break. Barkley’s ability to play point forward for Paul Westphal’s Phoenix Suns alongside Kevin Johnson and “Thunder” Dan Majerle was poetry in motion.

Different era.

During his sixteen year career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, Barkley averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists. The Round Mound of Rebound also earned 11 NBA All Star appearances, a league MVP award and an NBA Finals appearance.

During Barkley’s career, there were newer players entering the league who some analyst thought could be the next Barkley.

Insert: Clarence Weatherspoon, Corliss Williamson.

Some have said that the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green is the new Charles Barkley.

Green doesn’t see it.

“He was a guy who was getting the rebound and was pushing it full court,” Green told ESPN recently.

“I’m really nothing like Charles Barkley. We’re the same height but — and we both push the ball up the floor — but that’s about it.

“That’s the issue. You’re gonna need some incredible in vitro to come up with like six different guys.”

Could Zion Williamson be the next Barkley?

Barkley tells me that he’d like to see Williamson get his health in order first. “Right now he does everything above the rim and it’s taken a toll on his body,” he said.

“A sprinter doesn’t try to set the world record in practice. They talk about golfers, they don’t hit the ball with their club at 100% all the time. He’s got to learn to drive 55 instead of 100 mph all the time. That’s the one thing he’s got to learn.”

Pelicans coach, Alvin Gentry is excited for Williamson to return when he’s ready. “I think he’s fine,” he said Monday.

“I don’t think it’s anything that can be rushed. I think it’s a time thing. Six weeks is what we said, but obviously, he’s making progress. When the time comes for him to start on court and do things like that, he will. It’s not anything that’s going to be rushed or any shortcut. It’s a matter of taking the time to make sure he’s fine.”


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