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New Orleans Pelicans

Jonas Valanciunas on how it feels to watch Zion Williamson play: ‘Wow, what the f–k is going on?’

Zion Williamson
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas recently explained how it feels to watch star teammate Zion Williamson play.

“He has the skill set and the first step, which I feel bad for people who’s guarding him,” Valanciunas told Yahoo! Sports. “It’s unbelievable things. When you’re just watching him play, you feel like, ‘Wow, what the f*** is going on?’ His power, his highlights, talk for himself.”

Valanciunas, 31, was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and has played for three teams — the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies and Pelicans — across his 11 seasons in the NBA.

The center averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.7 blocks per game in 79 appearances with the Pelicans during the 2022-23 regular season (all starts). Valanciunas shot the ball efficiently, too, as he converted 54.7 percent of his field-goal attempts and 34.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

Meanwhile, Williamson, 23, was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and has played three seasons in the NBA, all as a member of the Pelicans franchise. The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in the 2022-23 regular season.

These numbers were good enough for Williamson to earn an All-Star nod, the second of his pro career.

However, a hamstring injury limited Williamson to just 29 games during the 2022-23 regular season. Without arguably their best player for much of the regular season, the Pelicans finished with a mediocre 42-40 record, the ninth-best mark in the Western Conference.

The team’s stint in the play-in tournament was short-lived. The Pelicans lost their first play-in game against the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final score of 123-118. Brandon Ingram was New Orleans’ leading scorer in the play-in loss, as he scored 30 points and converted 10 of his 19 field-goal attempts.

As Valanciunas alluded to, Williamson’s athleticism and talent are remarkable for a player of his stature. But because Williamson hasn’t been able to stay healthy since joining the NBA, Pelicans fans have only been able to witness his remarkable talent in spurts.

So here’s to hoping that Williamson will be able to avoid the injury bug during the 2023-24 regular season because he’s one of the best players in the NBA when healthy.


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