Zion shows MJ some love on first trip to UC
New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson got a louder cheer than anyone on the Bulls during pregame introductions on Wednesday.
The No. 1 overall draft pick is the NBA's most hyped rookie in several seasons, at least. When swarmed by reporters after the morning shootaround, Williamson took the attention in stride.
"I don't think it's overwhelming doing something I love," he said. "I'm living my dream."
The hyper-athletic power forward demonstrated some knowledge of Michael Jordan's career, which is appropriate since Williamson signed a $75-million deal with Jordan Brand in July.
"Yeah, this building is obviously special because this man won six rings here -- not all six of them here -- but he won six banners. Proud to be part of the Jordan family, so it's an honor to be able to play on this court," Williamson said.
And he's right, Jordan clinched just two of his six championships inside the United Center, in 1996 and '97.
Williamson gave a plug to Bulls' first-round pick Coby White. The two basically matched up just once last season in the ACC tournament semifinals when Zion's Duke squad beat White and North Carolina. Williamson injured his knee in the opening minute of the first game vs. UNC, then returned for the conference tourney.
"I remember coach is like, 'If we score it doesn't matter, Coby is pushing it,'" Williamson said. "Man, for my second game back that was a fast-tempo game. I was kind of tired like in the first three minutes, but I battled through it and it was a tough win.''
Williamson was also asked if he's looking forward to the dunk contest, maybe against Zach LaVine, when All-Star Weekend comes to Chicago in February.
"I knew that question was coming," he said. "Not really. It's a basketball game, and if we dunk it's whatever. I don't think we'll be doing nothing crazy out there."
Kornet makes big arrival:
Center Luke Kornet made his Bulls debut Wednesday after missing the first part of training camp with turf toe. Head coach Jim Boylen gave a stellar review of the free-agent addition before the game.
"He can play 4, he can play 5; he can play out, he can play in. He's smart," Boylen said. "From our evaluation, from the film I watched on him when I studied him ... he's one of the top defenders in the league (with) rim protection. He works at defense, he cares about it.
"For guys at the center position, he was the least turnover guy in the league. So he can handle the ball and make decisions. I'm really excited to see him play. He was as big a piece as Thad (Young) and Sato (Tomas Satoransky) for what we're trying to build and what we're trying to do."
Rookie learns the ropes:
Before Wednesday's game, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry talked about what it's been like having Zion Williamson around so far.
"He's been fine. Typical 19-year-old," Gentry said. "There's a lot of things he has to learn. He's very gifted in other areas. He's a hard worker in practice. He wants to learn. So to me, he's just a typical 19-year-old. He's out to explore something new and he's going to have his a-ha moments, but he's also going to have situations where he's going to have to learn a lot of things also."