Zion Williamson’s forceful response to criticism: Pelicans star leads New Orleans to massive win over T’wolves

Roughly 12 hours after Stephen A. Smith pilloried him for his conditioning, Zion Williamson dropped top-of-the-line performances of his still-young NBA profession.

Williamson scored a season-high 36 factors on Monday night time, main the New Orleans Pelicans to a 121-107 win over the NBA-best Minnesota Timberwolves. It got here 4 days after Williamson scored solely 13 factors in a 133-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers within the NBA In-Season Event semifinals, which prompted one other torrent of criticism towards the previous #1 general choose.

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Stephen A. does not maintain again

On Monday morning’s “First Take,” Smith and Shannon Sharpe have been debating NBA matters when Williamson got here up. The heavy-set energy ahead has been a frequent goal for Smith, particularly after the ESPN persona’s beloved New York Knicks missed out on the possibility to draft him in 2019.

“You bought cooks in New Orleans who love him. They’re on the lookout for him,” Smith stated. “Each chef there needs to fulfill him as a result of they know he’ll present as much as their restaurant. The phrase out on Zion Williamson is that he’ll eat the desk.”

The “eat the desk” remark should have made its approach into the Pelicans locker room, as a result of Williamson seemed like a participant possessed towards Minnesota and its elite protection. Williamson made 13 of his 17 field-goal makes an attempt on Monday night time, exhibiting off a whole array of interior-dominating strikes.

Zion’s highlight-reel spin and end

Williamson‘s aggressiveness and confidence helped him produce his most interesting basket of the night time initially of the second half. With the Smoothie King Middle crowd nonetheless discovering their approach again to their seats, Williamson acquired the ball on the prime of the important thing, took Karl-Anthony Cities off the dribble and spun to keep away from a steal try by Nickeil Alexander-Walker. He then adjusted in mid-air to complete over Cities and Rudy Gobert — one of many NBA‘s greatest massive males duos — whereas drawing a foul within the course of.

Williamson, who stands 6’6” and weighs in at 284 kilos, has by no means performed greater than 61 video games in a season and missed the whole 2021/22 marketing campaign with a foot damage. The 23-year-old’s lack of health and consistency have made him a straightforward goal, however Monday night time’s show towards Minnesota confirmed everybody the type of drive he will be.

“(The criticism) comes from a terrific place, they simply wanna see me do higher,” Williamson stated about his critics following the win. “If it comes from anyplace else, everyone seems to be entitled to their opinion.”

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