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Kevin Durant on Zion Williamson: ‘one-of-one’

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Wednesday’s opener will feature two NBA All-Stars returning to the game after a season’s layoff. For the Nets, it’s Ben Simmons and for the Pelicans Zion Williamson. Both were overall No. 1 picks. Simmons hasn’t played since June 21, 2021, Williamson since May 4 of the same year.

While fans in Brooklyn are wondering whether the Nets will prosper with Simmons, fans in New Orleans are wondering when and maybe if their prized star will be able to lead them. One question is already answered before the two teams face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Kevin Durant is impressed.

“You’ve seen guys at that size, 6-7, that can get up and down the floor and move; but not at that level, though,” Durant said. “You’ve seen guys like Jason Maxiell. I’m not saying they jump as high as Zion, but they were undersized guys that played bigger. And Zion’s one of those guys.

“Rodney Rogers — I’m missing so many guys that were that tall at 6-6, Charles Barkley, bruiser-type guys but played bigger. But Zion’s athleticism trumps all of theirs by far. When you add that to the mix, it makes him a one-of-one.”

His head coach agreed, saying you can’t dismiss Williamson as anything over than an “exceptional player” despite his history or injuries.

“I guess there is some trickiness to it: Which Zion do you get? But I think you’d be foolish not to expect an exceptional player,” Nash said. “He’s so talented and gifted. He causes problems for everybody, no matter, I think, what state his body and game is in. He’s still such a unique athlete and player.

“So we’ve got to be prepared. We can’t expect anything less than his best or we’ll be surprised and we’ll be second. And when you’re reactive, you’re in trouble.”

Other players who know Williamson’s game expressed confidence he will return with a vengeance. KD thinks that Williamson, now paired with Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, will be a tough match for Brooklyn.

“We know those players (Williamson, McCollum and Ingram) individually,” he said. “Willie (Green) is an amazing coach, teacher of the game, good person that the young guys can resonate with, so you know they’re going to play hard for him. So when you’ve got that much talent, you can pretty much be versatile with your group. And we’ll see what happens on Wednesday and we’re looking forward to a tough game.”

In other news out of practice Monday, Nash said Edmond Sumner will be available, his hip strain resolved. In what might be the easiest decision since the end of last season, the Nets announced that they are extending Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe. The two are now tied to the Nets through the 2023-24 season. Both will make a little more than $2 million that season.