While rumors of his unhappiness and dissatisfaction flowed (always from people “associated” with him), Zion Williamson himself has done nothing but say how much he wants to stay and win with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Zion reiterated that on Saturday at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans where he was part of a youth and basketball camp registration. Via Andrew Lopez of ESPN:
“I do want to be here. That’s no secret. I feel like I’ve stood on that when I spoke,” Williamson said to reporters at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans. “Currently, this does not really have anything to do with that. This is just me wanting to be a pillar in my community.”
Of course Zion says that — and he likely means it — but it all comes down to money. Guaranteed money.
Zion is eligible for a rookie contract extension this summer and Pelicans VP David Griffin said that Zion is a max player. The debate is over how much of that money the Pelicans want to guarantee — Zion has missed more games than he has played over three seasons (141 to 85), including all of last season. There have been concerns about Zion’s body type and style of play, as well as his workout habits.
Zion will want the standard fully-guaranteed NBA contract, while Griffin talked about the need for the franchise to “indemnify yourself in some way.” As in incentives or benchmarks to reach a full max. The question is, can the two sides find a compromise.
When asked about the extension, Williamson flashed a big smile and said, “You have to ask the Pels, baby.”
The Pels will be much better with a healthy Zion on the floor playing alongside CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram. The last time we saw Zion on an NBA court (two seasons ago) he averaged 27 points a game shooting 61.1%, plus 7.2 rebounds a night.
If Zion is healthy from the start of training camp this season and plays well, everyone will forget all this talk and he will get paid. Well, the talk may not be forgotten in Madison Square Garden, but the Pelicans want to lock him up and take that off the table.