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Zion Williamson conditioning program shows progress, Nicolo Melli signing made official and JJ Redick declines Team USA invite

Some news and notes concerning the New Orleans Pelicans to wrap up this week!

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NBA: Summer League-New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints opened up their much anticipated training camp today, and while that alone is enough excitement in itself for the entire city, we were also pleasantly surprised to see Zion Williamson in attendance — looking a whole lot svelter than he did at the start of this month in Las Vegas!

Jaxson Hayes and Alvin Gentry joined Williamson on the sidelines, but the topic of the hour was undoubtedly Zion. While it’s also fun to notice he does indeed look taller than a previously listed 6’7 frame at the start of his freshman year at Duke, the obvious improvements in Williamson’s conditioning has me excited from head to toe.

The quicker Williamson can get to a smarter playing weight, the better. One has to think that preventing injury is going to be so crucial to the success and longevity of Zion’s career. And in case you missed it earlier today, Jeff Duncan’s piece is a must read for Pelican fans, because among other things, it went into detail about how Griffin and Aaron Nelson are mindful of achieving that goal.

Yeah, I don’t know that we can determine a weight yet. Zion’s still growing. One of the things that’s lost in this whole process is that, like Jaxson Hayes, Zion is still getting taller. We’re not exactly sure what he’ll look like in the end. So a playing weight is not what you look for. What you look for is to be in top condition, to have the kind of core strength and stability that you need to control all of the incredible torque that his athleticism can generate. That’s really where Aaron Nelson and his team are going to focus their efforts, because Zion is one of those kids, like LeBron, he’s not going to lift a weight because he’ll add muscle and weight so quickly. So what you have to do with him is do everything you can from a core and stability standpoint to give him more ability to control what he already has in terms of strength and speed.

With JJ Redick and Darius Miller joining the New Orleans Pelicans in official capacity during the past ten days, only forward Nicolo Melli remained on the to-do list for David Griffin. However, that loose end was finally addressed yesterday when the Pelicans made him the 15th member of the roster.

Although details of the contract were not announced as per team policy, Melli was expected to sign a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth a total of $8 million at the start of free agency. With the Pelicans remaining cap space all but used up, Melli was brought on board via the room exception (an NBA exception available to teams under the salary cap). Per Jeff Siegel’s calculations at, the Pelicans now have $114,560,906 in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season so they’ll operate as an over the cap team.

Speaking of JJ Redick, he has decided to pass on his invitation to join Team USA and forgo their training camp in preparation for next month’s World Cup.

Redick, who has to worry about moving an entirely family and is yet to familiarize himself with his new teammates, made the logical choice. The World Cup Finals — despite the somewhat underwhelming roster, Team USA is still expected to advance to the final game — are scheduled for September 15th. If the NBA follows an identical plan to last season, many training camps will open this season on September 24th. For an established veteran who recently turned 35, it’s good to read Redick will not subject his body to a deviated offseason program and will instead turn his attention to what’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting campaigns in franchise history.