The New Orleans Pelicans made a run to the in-season tournament semifinals. They’d be even more dangerous if their young star was running more.
At halftime of the Pelicans’ 127-117 victory over the Sacramento Kings, Williamson had only two points, drawing the tire of the TNT commentators Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.
Smith said the Pelicans would only be a threat in the Western Conference “once Zion gets in basketball shape.” Barkley was harsher.
“He’s not in shape,” Barkley said. “He doesn’t run. He plays the game strictly on talent. He never runs on the fast break. He’s jogging on offense and defense.”
Still, Barkley was sympathetic, saying Williamson could be “special.” But he thinks he needs a veteran mentor like Barkley had in Hall of Famer Moses Malone, who gave Barkley some extremely tough love.
“I don’t know if he has a Moses Malone, who told me I was fat and lazy,” said Barkley. “If he can get in shape, you would not want to play this team.”
Like Williamson, Barkley struggled with staying in shape, to the point where the Philadelphia 76ers inserted a weight clause in his contract. But ultimately it may simply come down to running harder for Williamson, something the “Inside the NBA” guys tracked with what they called a “sprint count,” tracking how many times he actually sprinted down court.
For the first half, the sprint count was one. That has to improve. Or Barkley is going to emulate Malone and keep calling Williamson “fat and lazy.”