Williamson is currently recovering from surgery and there have been rumors of a second possible surgery to ease the pain that the 6-foot-7 285-pounder is still feeling.
With no current timetable for his return, grumblings of unrest have begun on the bayou.
“NBA Today” analyst Matt Barnes doesn’t believe Zion wants to play in Nawlins. Zion is 21 years old and hasn’t shown he’s ready to be a leader, but that’s not all his fault.
“I don’t think Zion wants to be there…There’s been rumblings, not from him but from his family, from the jump. And it’s hard for small market teams to keep young superstars.”
– Matt Barnes on Zion’s situation in New Orleans
(Via NBA Today) pic.twitter.com/8G0BasU67D
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) February 23, 2022
Barnes talked about his leadership in the segment on his show:
“You know, [Milwaukee Bucks center] Giannis [Antetokounmpo] learned how to be a leader. Not everyone can come into the league like LeBron and just be a leader. Zion is a very unique talent, and I think it’s just gonna take some time to learn how leaders move — because that’s what they’re looking for him to do.”
.@jj_redick is concerned with how "detached" Zion Williamson has been from the team.
"This is a pattern of behavior that we are seeing again and again with Zion." pic.twitter.com/EmE6BeBvjv
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 22, 2022
Williamson reportedly had very little interaction with the team as he rehabs. It’s clear that he’s distancing himself from them, similar to Anthony Davis when he planned his departure from New Orleans.
The Pelicans traded for guard CJ McCollum on Feb. 9, and Zion reportedly didn’t reach out to his new teammate until Monday, Feb. 21. That came only after backlash around the association from players and analysts who believed it should’ve happened much sooner.
Zion Williamson has reached out to CJ McCollum and both have spoken. (via @malika_andrews)
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) February 22, 2022
Does Williamson Want Out Of New Orleans? Sure Looks That Way
Barnes mentioned that Williamson may actually want out of New Orleans, saying it’s rare that young superstar players stay in small markets.
“But on the flipside, I don’t think Zion wants to be there. There’s been rumbles, not necessarily from him, but from his family — from the jump. And it’s hard for small-market teams to keep young superstars, because they’re such an attention to the big markets and the opportunities you can get there.”
Barnes wasn’t done.
“I think the writing’s kind of been on the wall for a minute. And the Pelicans have kinda overlooked it, hoping they can change things. But it told me a lot when they don’t have him in their season-ticket promo — the franchise player. So, obviously, the Pelicans know something.”
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) February 21, 2022
The Pelicans sold 12,000 season tickets when they won the lottery prior to the 2019 NBA draft. The mere belief that they’d draft Zion No.1 overall gave fans hope, and they rewarded the franchise by purchasing that record number of season tickets.
Last season, following a game against the Knicks, Williamson talked about Madison Square Garden, and he was all smiles.
“New York might be my favorite place to play outside of New Orleans,” said the double-double machine. “I can’t lie to you.”
"[New York] might be my favorite place to play outside of New Orleans. I can't lie to you."
Zion loved playing in MSG 👏 pic.twitter.com/FvUAduxmXa
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 18, 2021
Zion also referred to his lone appearance at MSG during his one season at Duke.
“I love playing here. I played here in college. If they draft me, I would love to play for the Knicks.
Zion, RJ, and Cam all played one season at Duke, and all were top 10 picks in the NBA draft by the Pelicans, Knicks and Hawks, respectively. Reddish has since joined RJ in New York following an in-season trade about a month ago. That leaves Zion.
Williamson’s injury history is a bit worrisome, having played in just 85 games across nearly three seasons. That rivals former Portland Trail Blazers big man and 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who played in 82 his first three seasons.
But Oden wasn’t anywhere near as talented as Zion is. Williamson averaged 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 61 games last season. For his efforts, he earned his first All-Star appearance. He dominated in the paint nightly, utilizing his great strength and explosiveness to power through and over would-be defenders.
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