In what was supposed to be a much anticipated opening tip-off between the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans to usher the new National Basketball Association (NBA) season, the sporting world got a disappointing development as the number 1 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, will miss 6-8 weeks due to a minor knee surgery. Tough luck for the Pels as they eventually lost the season opener to the Raptors via overtime 130-122.
Williamson, 6’7 and 280 lbs, will not just miss the opener but potentially the first 24 or so games of the Pelicans this year, an event that delayed his first step to an official regular game. He suffered the injury in a pre-season match against the San Antonio Spurs and as early as now, people are starting to wonder if the 19-year-old is simply “too heavy” for his own good. Can his knees hold up all that weight, power and force by which he plays?
When Charles Barkley was drafted in the ‘80s, his weight was close to Zion’s but he didn’t get that injury early because, with the help of the legendary Moses Malone, Barkley trimmed down to 265 and eventually continued trimming down til he reached to 250 lbs eventually bagging the MVP award in 1993.
Do the Pelicans need to give Zion a weight target before re-activating him post-surgery? Yours truly believes so. The NBA has bigger and stronger power forwards and centers which mean the contact and the pushes that Zion will receive on the court will be twice as strong as compared to the competition in college. With the way the rookie forces his way inside, his weight and the force of the opponent’s defense, one misstep could mean a season-ending injury.
Zion doesn’t have to weigh that much to dominate the inside. Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson, two of the NBA stars that can be compared to the built of Williamson, have proven that they can make an impact at under 260 lbs. We do hope the young protégé gets to recover fast and work his weight down so we can see more of his thrilling and power moves in actual game log.
To give the defending NBA champions some credit, we saw two key players pick up the void left by Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam dominated the paint and showed he was worth the contract extension and back up point guard last season, Fred VanVleet saw minutes in a small guard starting line up for the Raptors. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and VanVleet can be very tricky. They are both undersized but their bulk, speed, and wits more than makeup for the height disadvantage. It’s gonna be very interesting to see how things unfold for the Raptors this year.
LA vs LA
In a matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers with the former hosting at the Staples Center, the second opening game did not disappoint. Kawhi Leonard’s (arguably the best player in the world today) Clippers got the better of their same town rivals.
The scores didn’t matter in this game more than what the home court reality is for the Clips. The majority of the venue were rooting for the Lakers of Lebron James and Anthony Davis despite the Clips having the so-called “home town” advantage. As we all know, both the Lakers and Clippers call the Staples Center as their home and it was clear, by the jeers and boos that the Clips received on opening night, that no matter what happens, LA will always be a Lakers show.
Setting the rivalry aside, the Clippers won the game without their other superstar Paul George. Imagine what this team could do this season if they keep all players healthy.
The Clips showed their depth and talent right on opening day. You have quality players coming off the bench in Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Mo Harkless to backstop the starters. Landry Shamett seems to be a temporary starter with George out but expects him and Patrick Patterson to also give solid contribution minutes. They do have a champion head coach in Doc Rivers too so I strongly believe that this year the Clippers can go all the way.
They might need to retool the center position as Ivica Zubac is the only certified big in this roster. The market still has Joaquim Noah, perhaps Greg Monroe (if his contract in the Euroleague can get bought out) can join the fray midseason.
The other positions on the Clippers side are 2-3 man deep. Load the post with a quality big and preserve the superstars for the playoff stretch and we are talking about celebrating the Larry O’Brien trophy being hoisted in the Clippers side of the Staples Center by June next year.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)