Bulls are poised to get a firsthand look at the growing legend of Zion

Center Wendell Carter Jr. learned all about Zion Williamson from his former teammates at Duke, while rookie Coby White played against him last year. Ready or not, here comes Zion.

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Refrigerators were never designed to fly.

Then again, humans weren’t ever supposed to be 6-6 and 285 pounds with just a bit of expiring baby fat and at least a 45-inch vertical leap. Some say it’s closer to 48 inches, but there’s always some exaggeration in folklore.

No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson is coming to the United Center with the Pelicans on Wednesday night, and the Bulls will have a chance to try to decipher fact from fiction in person.

“I think it’s great for the league,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said Tuesday of the hype around Williamson, the consensus national college player of the year. “I think, obviously, what a deal for the city of New Orleans. But phenoms like him, guys like him, help us all. They help the whole league. They raise the profile of the league, the excitement for the league. People are going to circle that game now as a big game when they come in. That’s important. Now, when the Lakers come in, it’s a big game. When Boston comes in, it’s a big game, [or when] Toronto comes in, it’s a big game. Now New Orleans comes in, it’s a big game.”

Boylen got some new film to study after Williamson’s impressive preseason debut against the Hawks on Monday night. His 16 points included three jaw-dropping dunks; he also finished with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“I understood his talent is exceptional and his athleticism is legendary,” Boylen said. “I just like the spirit he plays with, the energy he brings. He seems to enjoy when his teammates have success and plays with emotion. I like guys like that. He brings juice to the building.

“I heard he practices hard and works hard. You’ve got to love those kind of guys. I haven’t seen a whole bunch of him yet, but he’s playing a lot of four, which to me is what he is. He’s a four who can guard everybody and handle the ball and help you win in a lot of different ways.”

Two current Bulls — center Wendell Carter Jr. and rookie guard Coby White — can vouch for that. Like Williamson, Carter left Duke after his freshman season to chase his NBA dreams. Carter, who was already gone in 2018 when Williamson arrived on campus, met Williamson and had good friends on the team who played alongside him last season.

“He’s had this hype since pretty much high school, and he had a lot of people around him boosting his head up,” Carter said. “But I think he has his head on right. He knows exactly what he has to do as far as working, and [we] saw that [Monday], and he played really, really well. He’s going to grow each and every day as long as he stays committed.”

Carter was hoping to face Williamson on Wednesday, but a bruised tailbone still has him listed as doubtful at best.

White played against Williamson last season at North Carolina. The two knew of each other back in their AAU basketball days in high school before meeting as part of the Tobacco Road rivalry.

“He’s what you see — what everyone else sees,” White said. “He’s 6-6. Big, strong, athletic, powerful. He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. He does what he does. I mean, y’all see it. Y’all see it on TV. Y’all seen him play.”

Now the Bulls will see it up close.

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