New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson sustained a knee injury during the very first Summer League game and was rightly shut down. After all, there’s no need to risk the future of a guy with limitless potential over games that don’t mean anything. Williamson’s former coach, Mike Krzyzewski, told Adam Zagoria of Forbes that the big man shouldn’t have been on the court the first time.
“No, I thought really he never should’ve played just because he’s been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything,” Coach K told me at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., where he’s recruiting this week. “I don’t think he’s in the playing shape or the mental shape to play.”
Williamson is expected to be just fine. The Summer League injury will have no major effects going forward. But it’s really, really interesting to hear this from Coach K. Zion was clearly healthy enough to play for the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament. He had two-plus months to put the injury in the rearview. So any questions over “shape” are due to cardio and repetition issues. Also, suggesting someone isn’t in the right mental space to play doesn’t seem to be doing them any favors.
Reading between the lines here, this means Coach K doesn’t play guys at Duke if they aren’t in both excellent shape mentally and physically. Perhaps he’s even more cautious with his athletes because they aren’t privy to large NBA contracts. Makes players who answer the bell each and every single time more impressive.