One of the first things David Griffin did when he started his job as the New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations was to hire Aaron Nelson as vice president of player care and performance.
Just a short tangent here – all these titles are making mine and your life unnecessarily complicated. I get it, they have a corporate structure, etc., but it’s just weird that heads of departments or organizations are executive vice presidents (and it’s too long to write every time). Why can?t we just have GM’s and head trainers?
So Griffin hired Nelson away from Phoenix where they used to work together because he knew one of the main criticisms of New Orleans was that they save money on infrastructure – buildings and staff. As the same family owns the Saints, they would sometimes have football guys work with the basketball players, which by all accounts didn’t work very well.
Nelson is considered one of the best at his job and with all the absurd things happening in Phoenix, they always had a reputation of being a top player performance destination. You’d go to Nelson and his team to save/revitalize your career. The Pelicans hired him even before they got the no.1 pick and Zion, so the commitment was there from the get-go, but obviously, his primary task is to make sure Zion has a long and healthy career at a high level.
It’s not just his spectacular athleticism that blows everyone mind, but it’s that he has such an unusual frame and weight for a basketball player. You’d never think a 285-pound person can move like that. There are different opinions should he lose weight (including muscle mass) or not, but he definitely needs to be in better shape for the 82 games regular season. The Pelicans need time to figure out what’s Zion’s optimal weight, but it seems that’s not the only reason they don’t have an answer yet. (via The Athletic)
“Yeah, I don’t know that we can determine a weight yet. Zion’s still growing. One of the things that’s lost in this whole process is that, like Jaxson Hayes, Zion is still getting taller. We’re not exactly sure what he’ll look like in the end. So a playing weight is not what you look for. What you look for is to be in top condition, to have the kind of core strength and stability that you need to control all of the incredible torque that his athleticism can generate. That’s really where Aaron Nelson and his team are going to focus their efforts, because Zion is one of those kids, like LeBron, he’s not going to lift a weight because he’ll add muscle and weight so quickly. So what you have to do with him is do everything you can from a core and stability standpoint to give him more ability to control what he already has in terms of strength and speed.”
We’ve been hearing about Zion for so long now it’s easy to forget the kid is still 19 years old. It’s not that surprising he’s still growing, but how big can he get? It’s mind-blowing to think that he will get even bigger.
The other thing the Pelicans are taking special care of is Zion’s nutrition. Kendrick Perkins warned him and us about the difficulty of eating right in New Orleans, so Zion will have a personal chef at his disposal to minimize the spectacular food that’s literally behind every corner in New Orleans.
It looks like David Griffin changed the culture and raised the level of professionalism in the Pelicans organization, and Zion will get all the support he needs to reach his maximum.