Remember Zion Williamson? More and more known as the guy selected before Ja Morant, Zion is truly becoming Anthony Davis 2.0. after being sidelined with an injury and distancing himself from the Pelicans as much as possible.
Rehab in Oregon
First, we found out Zion had a foot injury long after it happened - the Pelicans just mentioned it before the season started as if it wasn’t that important. Then there was the rare time when Williamson’s agent from CAA openly said that “the Pelicans are on course to lose Zion.” Let’s not forget the reports about David Griffin's cringe attempt to develop a relationship with Zion. Every time there’s any news about Williamson, it’s not good.
To be fair, it’s not all on the Pelicans. Putting on a lot of weight is never good for an NBA player, particularly if you have a broken foot. Shamit Dua from BourbonStreetShots expanded on Zion’s responsibility online, pointing out everything the young star did wrong.
The Pelicans training staff was notorious for basically being the Saints training staff, and you don’t work with NBA players the way you do with NFL guys. So one of the first things David Griffin did when taking over the Pels was bringing some of the best people in the business - his former colleagues from the Phoenix Suns. But, as it turns out, Zion was not impressed.
At the beginning of this year, the Pelicans announced Zion would be rehabbing away from the team but pointed out he would be “remaining under the supervision of the Pelicans medical staff.” Christian Clark from NOLA.com now reported that isn’t really the case.
“However, no Pelicans officials accompanied Williamson on the trip, and the 21-year-old star has been working with Jasper Bibbs, a strength coach who in August was fired after less than two months at LSU, sources told The Times-Picayune | Advocate.”
Christian Clark, NOLA.com
Zion didn’t like the level of caution the Pelicans established when bringing him back from his knee injury and decided to find his own guy. Well, the guy he found was fired from LSU and signed a $75,000 separation agreement that contained an NDA for both sides. Not a good sign.
Get ready to say goodbye New Orleans
If you casually followed Zion’s time in New Orleans, it’s basically an Anthony Davis 2.0 situation. The team rushed to become competitive, the franchise cornerstone can't stay on the court long enough to find out if it worked, and a departure seems imminent. From Zion praising Madison Square Garden to the Knicks trading for Cam Reddish, the path to New York seems obvious. Imagine the amount of BING BONG videos we'd get if that really happened.
But once the enthusiasm dies down wherever Zion lands, they will soon notice something the folks in New Orleans will definitely point out as a silver lining. It may not be much, but keep an eye on it. Every so often, we hear from credible sources that Zion's family is pulling a lot of strings. It's not an accident Dua mentioned the family requested that the injury isn't made public and referred to Zion's "psycho parents” once more.
I don't know what it is about family members. From uncle Dennis with Kawhi, Ben Simmons' brother being his shooting coach, to whatever is happening with Zion's parents. It's not like this is the first time family members are a handful, but somehow they seem to impact careers in a much more significant (often negative) way.
Maybe it's just more publicized now, but wherever Zion lands, I'd keep an eye on that. And yeah, Williamson leaving seems a given now. The only question is will he be the first player to refuse the rookie extension, or will Zion do the most popular thing in the NBA right now -- sign a multi-year contract and then ask for a trade six months later. Given his injury history, I'd say he gets the money first and then pulls a Ben Simmons.