With David Griffin breaking the news about Zion Williamson’s foot injury that would sideline him for at least a month, league personnel once again began to speculate on the looming 2022 extension talks between the star forward and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The injury itself in no way indicates something is wrong with their relationship. But the way the organization handled the situation — Zion’s injury occurred during a workout prior to summer league, and they announced it at Pelicans Media Day — plus the recent reports about Williamson allegedly ghosting the team during the offseason, should at least keep the other executives on their toes, monitoring the situation. Especially after the article by Bleacher Reports’s Jake Fischer.
Until Williamson puts pen to paper in July, rival front offices will hope and prepare for the possibility of a Zion free-agency frenzy come 2024. And even if Williamson does re-sign, teams will keep a radar trained onto New Orleans in hopes he seeks a trade like Simmons, just as Chris Paul and Anthony Davis did in NOLA before him.
Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report
This marks the second time in three seasons the 21-year-old forward will miss the team’s opening stretch due to injury. For a small-market team like the Pelicans, whose long-term plans are so dependent on the availability of their hard-earned franchise cornerstone, this type of injury pattern is very concerning. But what’s even more concerning is the constant risk of reinjury looming over Williamson.
The freight train that he is, it’s clear Zion’s unmatched physical presence keeps taking its toll on his lower body. This has been a point of emphasis ever since Williamson joined the NBA, and the consensual way of minimizing injury risks has always been for Williamson to address his weight issues — he even focused on refining his eating habits during his rehab as a rookie. But it seems the problems, as well as the pounds, only keep piling up.
This is nothing but a slap in the organization’s face and Zion’s potential initiation of his breakup campaign with the Pelicans. It’s also an indication of Williamson’s unhappiness with the front office, most notably the organization’s President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, after reports about tension between the two surfacing over the past few weeks.
If both, or any of these, are true, and this really is the start of Zion’s “I want out” operation, then we might have another Ben Simmons saga in the making. And just like the Sixers superstar, Williamson’s approach would be all wrong. Because just like the Sixers superstar, Zion would also be playing to his weaknesses in his attempt to force his way out.
The biggest question surrounding Simmons, apart from his shooting, has always been about his mental makeup. And what did the last few months show us? That the concerns were justified. If Zion’s tactic is to force a trade by not addressing his biggest weakness — his weight — the same thing might happen to him.
If the latest iteration of Williamson putting on a few pounds happened due to his laziness, hopefully, it’s his last one. But if this is about him planting the seeds for a future breakup, the way he’s doing it will come back to bite him.