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LeBron James says Zion Williamson is 'playing exceptional basketball'

Associated Press/Sky Sports NBA

Wednesday 26 February 2020 10:53, UK

Zion Williamson attacks the rim against the Los Angeles Lakers
Image: Zion Williamson attacks the rim against the Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James sees a long, prosperous future ahead of Zion Williamson and the up-tempo New Orleans Pelicans.

In the immediate present, James and Anthony Davis are a whole lot closer to basketball's ultimate goal, as they proved in their first meeting with their fellow No 1 overall draft pick.

Lebron James of the LA Lakers 1:46
LeBron James scores 40 points and eight rebounds for the LA Lakers in his first career meeting with Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans

James had 40 points and eight rebounds in his first career meeting with Williamson while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their sixth straight victory, 118-109 over New Orleans on Tuesday night.

Williamson had 29 points and six rebounds in his first showdown with James and Davis, his predecessor as the Pelicans' centrepiece.

Zion Williamson throws down a two-handed dunk against the Los Angeles Lakers 0:15
Zion Williamson collected a pinpoint pass from Lonzo Ball before throwing down a vicious two-handed slam against the Lakers

James and Williamson still haven't talked, but the 35-year-old James sees greatness in the teenager.

"He is playing exceptional basketball," James said. "I think his game is going to get better and better, just having that experience. I think today's game is the perfect fit for his game. The high pace, the way they play, it fits his game. It works perfectly, and our game is so many possessions now, so much space, it is perfect for his game, so he is doing exceptionally well with that.

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"The kid is special, we all know that. Every game is going to be another opportunity for him to get better. A learning experience for him. Today's game is a track meet, the way (the Pelicans) play fits his game because they get the ball out. First eight seconds (of the shot clock), they try to score and score and score. They have got a good one in him."

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Williamson was still injured for the Pelicans' first two meetings of the season with the Lakers, but his delayed debut in Hollywood was as entertaining as everyone hoped.

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In his 13th NBA game, Williamson scored at least 20 points for the ninth consecutive time, but managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter.

"It was a great experience, Williamson said. (LeBron) is an incredible player. His resume speaks for himself. He handled business. He came out here and did what he had to do to help his team get the win."

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The Lakers still haven't lost to the team with which they made the blockbuster summer trade that has appeared to benefit both teams. Davis has been just as good as the Lakers hoped in propelling them back to NBA championship contention, while the Pelicans are getting an All-Star season from Brandon Ingram alongside Williamson in an increasingly potent core.

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Davis had 21 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots while improving to 3-0 against New Orleans. Davis and Williamson briefly were theoretical team-mates during the time between the draft and Davis' departure for the Lakers, and Williamson admitted he entertained the idea they might play together, even though Davis had requested a trade.

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"He is a great player," Davis said of Williamson. "He has got a quick first step. Very explosive. He is going to continue to get better and better as he goes on."

Although Davis missed 15 of his 21 shots and failed to score 40 points against New Orleans for the first time, James picked him up with a masterfully efficient, 17-for-27 performance that included five three-pointers.

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James opened up a close contest with back-to-back buckets at the rim with about three minutes left. Danny Green sealed it for Los Angeles with his fifth three-pointer with 51 seconds to play.

Ingram had 34 points against his former team, but just six in the final period as New Orleans lost for only the second time in seven games.

LeBron James rocks the rim with a huge dunk against the New Orleans Pelicans 0:11
LeBron James took flight for a spectacular one-handed dunk against the New Orleans Pelicans

Williamson had several impressive dunks in his usual fearsome floor game, and only six missed free throws kept him from surpassing his career-high of 32 points.

"(LeBron) might see himself a little bit in Zion, the way they both came in with all the hype," Lonzo Ball said of his former and current team-mates. "I think 'Bron goes out there and plays his game every night no matter the opponent."

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