Add Zion Williamson’s name to the growing list of players who won’t be joining USA Basketball for the 2019 FIBA World Cup this summer.
The Pelicans forward has withdrawn from training camp, Team USA director Jerry Colangelo told The Athletic Monday.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 22, 2019
Williamson, 19, was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He is expected to be an important building block in New Orleans’ future, as it sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers for an impressive haul of young talent and future draft picks.
The 6-7, 285-pound high-flyer probably doesn’t need to accumulate extra wear and tear before his rookie season, and he’s not the only one sitting out the World Cup. Within the past week, James Harden, Anthony Davis, CJ McCollum and Eric Gordon, among others, also have pulled out of the upcoming USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas.
Coach Gregg Popovich still currently has quality young players like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma in the fold, as well as proven veterans like Kemba Walker and Damian Lillard. The 12-man U.S. roster will open World Cup play Sept. 1 in Shanghai.
Williamson may be better served getting into shape and building chemistry with the Pelicans’ top-tier young core that includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and fellow 2019 draft pick Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Williamson already gave the Pelicans a scare when he bruised his knee in NBA Summer League play in Las Vegas earlier this month. He threw down some thunderous dunks and scored 11 points in nine minutes against the Knicks in his lone game, but the knee injury led New Orleans to keep him out for the remainder of that contest and the rest of the event.
The Pelicans were 33-49 in 2018-19 and missed the playoffs, but New Orleans appears to be positioning itself for some serious improvement.