Pelicans' Zion Williamson responds to Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley criticism about conditioning, effort | Sporting News (2024)

Following the Pelicans' blowout loss to the Lakers in the Semifinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament, there was no shortage of criticism toward the New Orleans franchise. Zion Williamson received the brunt of it.

Immediately after the game, TNT's Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal questioned Williamson's conditioning, effort and motivation as he scored just 13 points and was a minus-33 in the box score in the Pelicans' 44-point loss. Four nights later, Williamson responded both on and off the floor.

With the Pelicans back at home hosting the West-leading Timberwolves, Williamson delivered one of his best performances of the year, scoring a season-high 36 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) to lead New Orleans to an impressive 14-point win. Following the game, he was asked about the criticism he's recently received.

"What exactly did they say?" Williamson asked in response to a question of whether or not the Hall of Famers' commentary was legitimate.

When informed it was about conditioning, Williamson responded: "If it comes from a great place and a place where they just want to see me do better — thank you. But if it comes from anywhere else, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. You can't control that."

In response to a follow-up, Williamson simply stated, "At the end of the day, I can't control what no grown man do. I can't control what no grown adult does. All I can do is control the things I can control, lock in on myself, lock in on my teammates, coaches and everybody with Pelicans, the city and try to win."

Williamson's performance was a resounding response to the criticism as it came against the Timberwolves, owners of the NBA's top-rated defense and best record. His 36 points were a break from a miniature slump in which he was held under 15 points in three of New Orleans' previous four games.

Over 20 games this season, Williamson is averaging 22.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 58.4 percent from the field. Based on their comments, it appears that both O'Neal and Barkley just want to see the 23-year-old reach his full potential.

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What did Shaquille O'Neal say about Zion Williamson?

After the In-Season Tournament Semifinal, O'Neal shared that he sees a lot of himself in Williamson. He made a few points as a plea to see more from the Pelicans' big man.

I want to make some points about Zion. He does not run hard — it's not a diss, this is going to be a lesson from one great big man to another guy that can be a great big man. I had the same problem my first and second year. I thought I was running hard, cause Charles (Barkley) talked about this — my talent is gonna get me 20 [points]. But when I start going to 20, 30 and 40 [points], it's because I started doing certain things.

He doesn't create easy points for himself. I saw a couple of times, he had a couple guys at the basket — he doesn't seal. He doesn't demand the ball. If you've got a small guy on you, we talk about it all the time — 'barbecue chicken alert' — Charles talks about it all the time, you can't let a little guard you. And he doesn't have that look.

Like, I'm not the greatest athlete ever but I know a look when I see it. In every sport I know a look. Tiger Woods had that look, Jack Nicholson had that look. He just doesn't have that look and he doesn't rebound. I'm sitting there and I'm watching. Charles is on him because that's Charles' category, I don't want to be on him that hard but he's not rebounding.

I was just like him — I was just like that. People used to pull me to the side … once he decides to get that killer and go for it, he's going to be a dangerous man.

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What did Charles Barkley say about Zion Williamson?

While Barkley insinuated that Williamson was overweight and lazy, he, too, compared the Pelicans star to a younger version of himself. His biggest point was that Williamson should undeniably be New Orleans' best player, but he currently shares the spotlight with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum.

The thing that disturbs me is — he's not a young kid. When Moses (Malone) told me I was fat and lazy, I was a rookie. He's been in the league long enough — he's got two guys on his team that are better players than him and they shouldn't be

He was the No. 1 pick in the draft, he should be a better player than Ingram — we like Ingram, obviously and we love CJ (McCollum) — he should be the best player, and he's not even close.

No. 1, he's gotta get in shape. I told you, I've been very disappointed — he's averaging six rebounds a game. He's only had two double-doubles all season. Man, if my grandmother was alive — she used to call me after every game that I didn't get double-figure rebounds and just kill me. A big guy that talented should never get less than 10 rebounds — he should be averaging 11 or 12 rebounds per game.

But he doesn't run the floor at all — when you actually watch the game — now the Pelicans deserve some blame, they've got him playing point forward but he can't play point forward because he doesn't move the ball enough. He doesn't run hard enough and they don't go up and down fast enough. He should be a finisher, not a starter.

Pelicans' Zion Williamson responds to Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley criticism about conditioning, effort | Sporting News (2024)
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