NBA | PELICANS
NBA: Pelicans have a problem with Zion Williamson
Concerns are growing at the New Orleans Pelicans over the fitness and attitude of Zion Williamson, who has yet to feature in the NBA this season.
That the New Orleans Pelicans are facing a huge problem with Zion Williamson is no secret. As well as talk about the All-Star’s weight, the Pelicans are also concerned about the 21-year-old’s attitude. Williamson, the number one draft pick in 2019, has yet to play in the NBA this season due to a foot injury.
For a forward who dominates pivots, a real powerhouse, who has yet to fully deliver on his potential in the NBA, it seems that the challenge of maintaining himself physically has taken a back seat. It could be that his weight has aggravated his injuries, although no doctor has suggested such a hypothesis yet, but the Pelicans’ concerns go beyond Williamson’s physical shape. The 21-year-old is not in the same stage of progression as Ja Morant, Tyler Herro or even Terance Mann, Jordan Poole, Keldon Johnson and Nic Claxton. Fate almost immediately paired Williamson with the Pelicans as soon as their pick positions were decided in the 2019 draft and New Orleans’s concerns have been growing to the point that there is talk of a possible trade even before his contract expires.
Williamson suffers setback on road to recovery
The treatment of his injuries and his personal relationship with Pelicans vice president David Griffin are a burden that has weighed on the former Duke star, who adopts a defensive position over any talk of his progress towards a return to action. This week he received a biologic injection to treat his right foot, which means his recovery has been set back by another four to six weeks.
The Pelicans and the franchise’s fans are now treating every move Williamson makes with extreme suspicion. And even more so given the number of leaked criticisms of the player. “He skipped rehab. He fell asleep in a video session. He has refused to do things he has to do so that the team can try and get him back on court,” said pundit Jake Madison on his podcast Locked On Pelicans. There has not yet been open talk of a boycott, but that could be understood from what is happening. Is Williamson trying to get himself a trade?
This season the Pelicans have a young coach and a former player, Willie Green, who has a great reputation as an assistant and a serious problem that he is struggling to manage. New Orleans are 14th in the Western Conference and have improved on their early season form lately – largely due to the emergence of a more decisive Brandon Ingram – but that and another stand-out season from Jonas Valanciunas are not doing them much good. Williamson is needed. At 21, next year he will have the option to sign an extension similar to Luka Doncic or Trae Young, landing him a huge contract running through to 2028.
That is set to be, whether or not he returns this season and in whatever shape he does so, the next stand-off between Williamson and the Pelicans, a relationship that seems to be strained on both sides and far from an alliance that could change the shape of the NBA if it were to work out.