After pulling off an unlikely playoff run earlier this year, the Pelicans enter next season hoping to capitalize on their success with a now-healthy Zion Williamson in tow.
The young star’s anticipated return from injury is likely one of the few NBA headlines intriguing enough to cipher attention away from the NBA Finals, even if for a brief moment. Just ask CJ McCollum, whose appearance as an analyst during Game 1 Thursday night included a brief tangent on Williamson, thanks to NBA legend Magic Johnson.
Appearing on ESPN2’s NBA Finals: Celebrating 75 broadcast, McCollum was asked by Magic about his offseason plan with Zion, and the veteran guard’s answer should give some relief to fans still worried about the big man’s health.
“I took him under my arms, I’m gonna make sure he’s right,” McCollum said. “We’ve been communicating this summer about times we’re going to meet up. I’m gonna get him out to New York, get some work in with me during draft week. … I’m getting him out to Vegas with me and we’re getting some time together.”
After famously telling TNT he couldn’t get in touch with Williamson following his mid-season arrival from Portland, McCollum appears to finally be on the same page with the dynamic 2021 All-Star. Or, at least, close to it considering the pair didn’t share a single minute on the floor this season.
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While Williamson was away rehabbing his broken foot, McCollum and former All-Star Brandon Ingram formed a formidable 1–2 punch to lead the Pelicans to a play-in tournament berth despite finishing with a 36–46 record. The club would win both play-in games before falling in a hard-fought six games to the Suns in the first round.
Although it remains to be seen if the Pels have a legit “Big 3” or not, McCollum’s addition combined with Williamson and Ingram has certainly raised the level of expectation for coach Willie Green & Co. going forward. So far, though, the ex-Blazers guard looks like he will complement both players just fine.
In his 26 regular-season appearances, McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds on 49.3/39.4/66.7 shooting splits. And in Round 1 against Phoenix, he averaged 22.2 points to go with a playoff-career best 6.7 RPG and 4.8 APG on 39.2/33.3/69.2 splits.
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