Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images
New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has been called out by fans for being out of shape, and it appears the team has made a continued effort to help the 2019 No. 1 overall pick improve his health.
The Pelicans “have repeatedly stressed to Williamson that his diet and conditioning need to improve,” but the veteran forward “doesn’t listen,” according to Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune.
Williamson’s health was a hot topic following New Orleans’ 133-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night in the in-season tournament semifinals.
Fans were quick to question his conditioning after he finished with just 13 points, two rebounds and three assists in nearly 26 minutes on the court and was heavily outplayed by a 38-year-old LeBron James.
Williamson’s lack of conditioning has seemingly been a problem since he broke into the NBA as a rookie during the 2019-20 season.
The Duke product admitted in July that it has been hard for him to diet, but it also appeared that he had made some good progress on his health over the summer as The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania reported in September prior to training camp that the Pelicans believed that he was “in really good shape.”
“He’s investing a lot more money, investing a lot more time on his body, on hiring people, bringing people into his life that can help him and help his body. From that standpoint, you have to give Zion Williamson shout for his accountability. I think he understands the level of commitment he needs to have moving forward,” Charania added
It’s unclear what might have changed with Williamson’s routine since then, and former NBA star Charles Barkley even called him out earlier this week while speaking on NBA on TNT.
“He not in shape. He doesn’t run. He plays the game strictly on talent. He’s kinda like jogging on offense and defense,” Barkley said.
Barkley added that Williamson could use a mentor to help him get in shape.
“He’s gonna be somewhat successful. He could be special. But see, I don’t know if he has a Moses Malone who told me I was fat and lazy,” Barkley said, referring to his own conditioning challenges in the NBA. “He owns that organization already, but if he could get in shape, you would not want to play this team.”
Williamson is averaging 22.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 19 games this season while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from deep, but his game would likely be much improved if he was in shape.
If the Pelicans hope to make any sort of playoff run this year, it’s imperative that Williamson focuses on his health moving forward.