Zion Williamson and the Pelicans: very serious danger of divorce

David Griffin has been running the New Orleans Pelicans for two and a half years. As vice president of operations, he came to planning a new era in Louisiana professional basketball, where the signing of an executive who had been the architect of the champion Cavaliers in 2016 (the team that defeated the Warriors 3-1 with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving) and who had supposedly been tempted by the Lakers, where LeBron was and where Anthony Davis was going to end up, at that time in the middle of a public war to force his (ugly) exit from the Pelicans.

Griffin, at a time when his reputation was through the roof, managed the departure of Davis, the arrival of a bag of picks and young talent (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart) and the fortune of receiving No. 1 in the 2019 draft, the year of the most desired player since LeBron James in 2003: the year of Zion Williamson. Two and a half years later, Anthony Davis has been champion with the Lakers, lThe Pelicans have played two seasons in which they finished 13th and 11th in the West, without even reaching the purgatory of the play in, and they go with Willie Green for their third coach after the departure of Alvin Gentry and the arrival and express fall of Stan Van Gundy. Oh right, and they navigate among worrying rumors about Zion Williamson, a player called to be generational and who in NOLA Brings back, as the waters tumble downward, memories of two others who forced him out of town: Chris Paul and the hated Davis.

Things are not looking good, of course, at the gates of the year III of Zion and at the premiere of the It was Willie Green: an article in NOLA.com signed by Christian Clark has targeted an organization that appears to be identified as dysfunctional, fed up with Griffin and in serious danger of losing Zion, who for his part does not come out well either because the article has been accompanied by all kinds of rumors about his life and his commitment to his team.

Zion is supposedly unrelated to Griffin, whom she hasn’t spoken to for a long time. AND he’s mad at the Pelicans since their arrival as rookie, when the franchise handled his knee injury with absolute caution. He played little as a rookie and when he did he had to be on the track in very short sections and managed by the medical team, something that frustrated him greatly. By himself, he was an ultra-media player when he left Duke hoping to travel to a more opulent and flashy market: The Knicks chose RJ Barrett at No. 3. The Florida bubble got completely out of shape, and now it’s been known that suffered a muscle injury that influenced the disaster of his team at the restart and was covered by his family, the same one that has already been rumored that she wants Zion out of the Pelicans as soon as possible. Now he has not been with the team in the voluntary workouts before the preseason and it is said that he does not listen to the approaches of Brandon Ingram, that in the Las Vegas Summer League he did not approach his teammates and that basically lives in Durham, near his campus Blue devils by Duke, where he is a regular at nightclubs who already frequented as a college superstar.

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In the Zion environment they prefer a more media market and the presence of Griffin does not help, of which the article of NOLA.com He even says he stayed with Zion to play the piano in his attempts to forge a relationship that never grew closer. Within the Pelicans, the executive is also noted by many for his inability to take blame and a talent that is considered vain. His work is also in question. The Pelicans lost Davis and Jrue Holiday and have yet to forge a compact and aspirational team with all that they have received in return. They did not know how to get the most out of Lonzo when they already suspected that they would not extend his contract, and they waited until the summer to finally accept a sign and trade minimum. And they have seen veterans pass and go (Reddick, Favors, Bledsoe, Adams …) in the attempt to form a block capable of approaching the demanding playoffs from West.

For now they have not succeeded, and have thus burned two seasons of a Zion Williamson that after this new course could sign his maximum rookie contract extension, more than 181 million for five extra years. Since there is that option of maximum / super maximum, no player in rookie contract the one who has been offered has rejected it. It is a logical option to secure that monstrous total of money after arriving in the NBA subjected to the scale of contracts to rookies first round. But some believe that Zion is so tired of the Pelicans that he could be the first to brave this route and look for an earlier exit, confident in his sporting possibilities… and in the market. Without debuting in the NBA, he signed a $ 75 million contract with Jordan Brand that some see as a kind of insurance that will allow him to take risks with respect to his sporting future.

If he does not sign the extension in the summer of 2022 to secure another five years to the 2022-23 course that the Pelicans have already run, he could be a restricted free agent in 2023 (with a qualifying offer of 17.5 million for the 2023-24 season) … or free agent without any restrictions in 2024, a year before a new television contract comes into force in 2025, from which a new injection of millions is expected to trigger the total number of contracts signed thereafter. Another matter that can give Zion a path that seems almost illogical when you think about it in terms of guaranteed money. And an option that makes Pelicans tremble who are in a very complicated situation, after a difficult summer in which its big market targets (Kyle Lowry, the main one) have not even come close to being interested in going there and from which they leave without, apparently, a great sporting impulse and surrounded by rumors that point to a toxic environment marked by the null relationship between an architect pointed out by almost everyone and a young superstar and, for now, little compromised. Bad thing.

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