(left to right) Zion Williamson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes greet each other before a game

Pelicans Playback: Three takeaways from Antonio Daniels’ March 29 appearance

by Jim Eichenhofer

Prior to Sunday’s rebroadcast of New Orleans’ Jan. 22 loss vs. San Antonio – which marked the NBA debut of Zion Williamson – Pelicans TV analyst Antonio Daniels joined Fox Sports New Orleans TV sideline reporter Jennifer Hale on the “Pelicans Playback” show. Here are three takeaways from Daniels’ appearance:

Attitude and approach are big plusses for New Orleans’ trio of first-round picks.

From Day 1, the group of Williamson, 19; Jaxson Hayes, 19; and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 21, have been complimented for their maturity, which should greatly benefit them as their NBA careers progress.

“First and foremost, what stands out is the young men that they are,” Daniels said. “Obviously they are very talented (basketball-wise), or they would not be in this position.”

Their positive attitudes helped Williamson stay patient while missing the first 44 games; Hayes and Alexander-Walker both have gone through stretches in which they were not part of the rotation.

“All of them have experienced some adversity, which is what your rookie year is going to be about,” Daniels said. “What I love about these three young men is that through all of that adversity, they always keep a smile on their face and are excellent locker-room guys.”

Jrue Holiday continues to be widely-respected for his two-way excellence.

Through his TV work with the Pelicans, as well as his Sirius XM national show, Daniels gets to speak with many people around the NBA. They consistently come back to a theme of how appreciative they are of Holiday’s contributions on both ends of the floor, something that makes him truly stand out among the league’s top players.

“Talking to different players throughout this league, when they talk about the best two-way players in the league, they’ll talk about Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, but they’ll also talk about Jrue and what he brings on a nightly basis,” Daniels said. “There are very few guys in this league who a coach will have confidence in a 6-foot-4 guard to (defend any position, but Holiday does that).”

Eating healthy might be the biggest key for NBA players during this hiatus.

NBA team practice facilities are closed. Even local gyms are shut down all over North America. So getting the same type of cardio that a basketball player would normally be experiencing in late March is pretty much impossible. That makes focusing on other ways to stay prepared for an eventual return to the court critical.

“You can’t simulate games,” Daniels said of an obstacle for players this spring. “Right now, the big thing is to eat healthy, to eat the right way. That way when the season does start back up, you’re a little bit ahead of the curve. You have to find a way to get some semblance of a workout in. If you don’t have access to equipment, get outside, run, jog, do the old-school workout with push-ups and situps. You have to find a way to keep your body active.”

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