Hyped rookie Williamson set to play at UC for second time

Zion Williamson has been a mystery to most of the NBA, but the hyped rookie is about to play his second game at the United Center. If all goes well, Williamson will play the UC for a third time at the Rising Stars Game on Feb. 14.

Williamson's second professional game took place in the preseason when New Orleans visited the Bulls. He scored 29 points in 27 minutes, while hitting 12 of 13 shots from the field.

"Yeah, I guarded him in preseason," Bulls forward Thaddeus Young said Thursday. "We were actually talking about some of the stuff he was doing like, 'Man, he's super-athletic.' When he's driving to the basket, he just takes off. I think one it seemed like he took off from the free-throw line and he was just gliding."

Not long after that preseason game on Oct. 9, Williamson had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee and didn't make his regular-season debut until Jan. 22.

Barring a setback, he'll play his eighth game of the season against the Bulls on Thursday. Williamson is listed as questionable with a sprained right toe.

So far, the No. 1 overall draft pick has done well, averaging 19.6 points in 27.1 minutes in his first seven games.

"He's a physical specimen, one of those once-in-a-lifetime type players. Super athletic with a big, wide body," Young said.

"Biggest thing is keeping your body between him and the basket. You know he's going to be athletic, you know he's going to try to power through some guys. Just making sure we take care of business."

Young has been starting at power forward for the injured Lauri Markkanen, so he figures to be guarding Williamson most of the night.

"They hit you in a couple different ways," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "They're a high-volume 3-point shooting team, and they're a team that can get to the rim, especially in transition. They present a lot of challenges, and not only Zion."

Contest adds distance:

When Zach LaVine competes in the 3-point contest during All-Star Weekend in Chicago, there will be a significant change. The league has added a longer shot, from 30 feet.

According to news releases, each player will get two shots from 30 feet, using a sponsor's green ball, and 10 seconds will be added to the one minute normally allotted to launch 3-point shots from five ball racks. Made baskets with regular balls count for 1 points, the "money balls" count for 2, and the long-range baskets will count for 3.

On Wednesday at the United Center, there were all-star ball racks next to the court so LaVine can practice.

"It's an opportunity for a guy to have the trophy from the dunk contest and a trophy from the 3-point," coach Jim Boylen said. "Who has done that? Has anybody done that? I don't think they have. So, hey, why not? We'll see."

Shaq stays ready:

The Bulls have missed Kris Dunn's defense in the past two games, allowing 133 and 129 points against Brooklyn and Toronto. So why not turn to defensive specialist Shaq Harrison, who played just four minutes against the Raptors on Sunday?

"Shaq will play some," Jim Boylen said Wednesday. "He's a utility guy. We've played Denzel (Valentine), we've played Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono). Arch has played well. Coby (White) has played more of the lead guard in the last 10 days. Shaq is Shaq, I love having him on our team and he's always ready to play and we'll use him accordingly."

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