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Hawks’ Vince Carter’s advice to Pelicans’ Zion Williamson: ‘Be yourself’

Vince Carter, Zion Williamson, Hawks, Pelicans

Atlanta Hawks veteran swingman Vince Carter’s NBA career is older than New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson.

Carter is playing in his 22nd NBA season, while Williamson is only 19. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2019 draft is currently out for the Pelicans, as Williamson is recovering from knee surgery.

Like Williamson, Carter received a lot of hoopla as a dunker when he came into the league back in 1998. Now, Carter — one of the best dunkers in NBA history — has some advice for Williamson.

“Be yourself,” Carter told Khari Arnold of NBA.com. “He’s two years removed from high school. Players get to the NBA and we expect them to be somebody that they need to develop themselves to be. I came in labeled as a dunker, and then some people would say, ‘Yeah I knew you could shoot a little bit, but I want to see you dunk.’

“Just like right now, when you see Zion, you don’t want to see him shoot a jump shot. You want to see him dunk unless he’s playing against your favorite team. And then you say what? ‘Make him shoot a jump shot.’ But if you’re just a fan of his, what are you gonna say? ‘I want to see him dunk. I want to see him dunk on somebody.’ That’s the natural reality of it. So just be yourself, play your game. [People] don’t even know that he’s got a decent handle. Not a bad passer.”

In his lone season at Duke, Williamson put on an absolute show. The high-flyer averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 68.0 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from beyond the arc and 64.0 percent from the free-throw line.

The Pelicans are unsure when Williamson will return to action. The meniscus surgery Williamson underwent is unknown, although most experts believe it was a meniscectomy rather than a true repair since the initial estimated timeline is six-to-eight weeks.