NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A few months after Zion Williamson was completely omitted from Pelicans’ ticket renewal promotional material, the injury-riddled star attacker was once again celebrated on Wednesday as a supremely influential figure in New Orleans’ future.
“The past few months have been a roller coaster of emotions,” Williamson said. “The world just ran with stories, and so when my family went out in public, they were harassed by people about why we don’t like New Orleans or why we don’t want to be here when we’re not supposed to. Not at all.
“I couldn’t play because my foot was broken,” Williamson continued. “Every time I look at my phone, it’s always something negative. Even if you try to make the situation positive, it was very difficult.”
So the Pelicans took advantage of the opportunity that Williamson signed a $193 million contract extension for five years — which could be worth up to $231 million if the explosive, 6-foot-6, 280-pounder lives up to the potential it exhibits when he is sane – to try to dispel old notions of mistrust and start a new story.
“This is truly a momentous event for all of us,” said David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans. “This is an opportunity for us as an organization to really digest much of what has been said.
“So many things that are talked about are just words,” Griffin continued as Williamson nodded in agreement at his side. “What Zion Williamson has done today is his dedication to this team and to this city and to this community. … So the sound that’s on the edge of it all is completely irrelevant.”
Williamson now appears healthy, having been approved by the club to participate in basketball activities without restrictions. Recently, he and his stepfather, Lee Anderson, hosted kids’ basketball camps at a New Orleans YMCA, where Williamson formally signed his contract as campers stood behind him and applauded.
It was also Williamson’s 22nd birthday, and he noted, grabbing Griffin’s shoulder and smiling, that it was his best birthday yet.
“Thank you for really sticking with me over the past year,” Williamson told the Pelicans buyers. “It was a difficult year, and when the Pelicans came to give this birthday present, I won’t let it.” I’m not going to disappoint the city, I’m not going to disappoint my family, and most importantly, I’m not going to disappoint myself.”
Now the overall 2019 draft pick of Duke, who has played in just 85 games in his first three seasons, is poised to see how much his return could help a side that improved dramatically late last season and made a surprisingly competitive playoff without show him.
Meanwhile, Griffin sees his vision for building a young team built for lasting success coming together under Willie Green, who in his first season as NBA head coach led the team from a 1-12 start to a post-season qualifier, two plays. -in wins and two more first-round series wins against the top seeded Phoenix.
“We feel that with the team we’ve put together, with Zion being a huge part of that, Coach Green and his staff will be able to put down an incredible run,” said Griffin. “We are young, we are talented and the most important thing is that we are very hungry.”
Williamson appeared in just 24 games as a rookie due to a preseason right knee (lateral meniscus) injury. In his sophomore season, he played in 61 of 72 games, averaging 27 points for the team and became his first All-Star in what was his only NBA campaign that was not largely or completely wiped out by injury.
“Zion is a big part of what we want to achieve,” Green said, noting that Williamson will periodically start the attack by handling the ball, as he successfully did in the second season. “It’s not necessarily that he belongs. He can do that with ‘Any team in the league. It’s about maximizing the group we had when we had him around. And honestly, I think it’s going to be scary for the rest of the NBA.”
Williamson said he’s focused on adopting strategies designed to preserve his health and advance the longevity of his career — but cutting back on high-powered, high-flying dunks in favor of lower-impact layups probably won’t be an option. are theirs.
“I’m a competitor, so when I’m on the field, I don’t think, ‘Let me put this ball in; hopefully my career will last longer,” Williamson assured with a playful grin. “No, I’m thinking of pushing that person through the brink. So, as far as I’m concerned, dunk, that will always happen. That will continue to happen, no matter what (team trainers and management) are talking about. I’m always dunking. Come on man! †