RJ Barrett taking Zion Williamson hype to the next level
Already dominating the NBA, Zion Williamson is “not even 75 percent” of what he will become at this level, according to RJ Barrett.
The former Duke teammates faced each other in the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend, and the Canadian-born Barrett said he believes Williamson is just getting started. The No.1 overall draft pick regains form following a knee injury that cost him the first half of his rookie campaign with the Pelicans.
The 19-year-old Williamson, with 25 points Friday at Portland, became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20 or more points in seven consecutive games, breaking Carmelo Anthony’s mark from 2004.
“He was chilling in the Rising Stars game, but you could see it [Friday], I think he had 20 at halftime,” Barret said Saturday. “You see the impact he can have and New Orleans is treating him great, so I’m happy for him.”
Barrett scoffed when asked if he believes Williamson, who is averaging 22.4 points and 7.2 rebounds over 11 appearances, is “all the way back” from his knee injury.
“No. He’s not what he could be. But he’s getting there,” Barrett said. “Around there, but I wouldn’t even say 75 percent, I would just say he hasn’t played much and he’s still trying to get his rhythm. He’s playing well, but he’ll be fine.”
Barrett, also 19, said he gained confidence after netting a game-high 27 points for the World team at the All-Star event, featuring many of the NBA’s top first- and second-year players.
“Man, I had a lot of fun. I was there kind of just taking it in. I felt like I was spectating. There was so much going on, I was just glad to be a part of it,” Barrett said. “Especially playing against the best guys of my class and the year above, it was definitely a great feeling. … It brings my confidence up, so [I want to] just continue to play every day and finish out the year strong.”
Barrett, who scored 17 points in Friday’s loss to the Pacers, also doesn’t believe he’s facing the “rookie wall” since he missed time before the All-Star break with a sprained ankle.
“Nah, I didn’t even hit a rookie wall because I was out for three [weeks] and a bit, so I’m fresh. I’m good,” he said. “[The season] goes by quick. I feel like I just got drafted. You just learn to appreciate every day.”
Elfrid Payton (sore right ankle) didn’t practice after sitting out Friday’s game. Mitchell Robinson (sprained left ankle) also missed practice and Wayne Ellington (strained right ankle) was a limited participant.
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