As the NBA continues to ramp up its return to play plan, teams have returned to facilities. While group practices are still not allowed, players can work out and go through drills as they prepare to travel to Orlando next week, and things are starting to feel a bit more normal.
Early on Thursday, the New Orleans Pelicans shared some photos of the work their players have been putting in, and it's clear that Zion Williamson was using his quarantine time wisely. The rookie was looking quite ripped as he worked out in a mask, which gave him a bit of a Bane vibe.
With previous concerns about his weight and fitness, coupled with the challenge of returning to play in these new circumstances, it's a great sign to see Williamson looking so ready. Coincidentally, he spoke with reporters on a conference call on Thursday, and said, "I feel in good shape right now," while noting he spent the past few months training with his stepdad.
Williamson and the Pelicans have a big challenge ahead of them in Orlando, as they try to catch the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Currently 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies, and given the format in place, it will be nearly impossible for the Pels to take the spot outright in just eight seeding games, even if they have the easiest schedule.
The most likely outcome is a play-in tournament, which will take place if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth seed. Still, even though a play-in situation is almost certain to happen, it would benefit the Pelicans to overtake the Grizzlies and be in eighth place by the end of the season.
That's because the eighth seed will have to beat the ninth seed just once to advance to the playoffs, while the ninth seed will have to beat the eighth seed twice in a row to take the postseason spot. Either way, however, the Pelicans are going to be one of the must-watch teams down in Orlando, especially if Williamson picks up where he left off.