So far, the only knock on rising superstar Zion Williamson has been his conditioning.
Following a knee injury prior to his rookie season with the Pelicans, Williamson was placed under “burst restrictions” that saw him average just 27.8 minutes per game. After being cleared to play with no restrictions in 2020-21, the dynamic forward’s minutes have jumped up to 32.4 mpg.
Apparently, this isn’t enough for former Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone. On an appearance with the Players’ Tribune “Knuckleheads” podcast, Malone had some strong words for the young star.
“Zion needs to be averaging like 40 minutes per game… you’re a 21 year old kid… your a** shouldn’t be getting tired,” Malone said.
Karl Malone calls out Zion Williamson: "Zion needs to be averaging like 40 minutes per game… you're a 21 year old kid… your a** shouldn't be getting tired."
Sheesh. 👀 (via Knuckleheads Podcast/ @PlayersTribune)
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) January 20, 2021
Sure, maybe Williamson (actually 20 years old) leaves a little to be desired in the conditioning department — but this statement certainly comes with its fair share of irony.
Through his rookie season at age 22, Malone averaged 30.6 mpg — just three minutes more than Williamson’s restricted minutes in 2019. Malone’s second season saw his minutes hit 34.8, again just over Williamson’s 32.4 early in his sophomore season.
Often considered one of the most fit players in the league, Malone only surpassed a 40-minute average twice in his 19-year NBA career.
Conditioning concerns aside, Zion Williamson has looked astounding to start the 2020-21 season. Through his first 11 games, the former No. 1 pick is averaging a near double-double with 22.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Barring any injuries, expect Williamson’s minutes to peak as the season progresses.