New Orleans Pelicans brass has been focused on spinning the narrative that surfaced when Zion Williamson was embarrassingly out of shape during his first Summer League game.
It was so bad that the franchise chose to shut him down for the remainder of the Summer League season rather than damage his brand before he ever gets going.
His college coach said he shouldn’t have been out there at all, considering the celebrity steamroller he’s been on since the beginning of last season. But that’s The Zion Effect at work.
He will be highly scrutinized, judged, branded and marketed in his rookie NBA season. He’s also supposed to be the savior of a Pelicans franchise that lost Anthony Davis and needs Zion to be an instant franchise superstar.
The world is watching to see how Zion handles this blessing and curse.
Williamson will enter his rookie NBA season with the New Orleans Pelicans as the second-heaviest player in the league at 285 pounds, behind Dallas Mavericks big man Boban Marjanovic, who also has eight inches on Williamson’s 6-foot-7 frame.
A popular criticism of Zion has been that he can’t possibly play to his full potential and thrive under the rigors of NBA competition carrying all of that weight.
Charles Barkley says Zion has to shed some pounds, but if the 19-year-old is actually still getting taller as Pelicans GM David Griffin implied recently.
— FOX Basketball (@FoxBasketball) July 29, 2019
That would seriously change things and lessen the importance of his weight. At least, that’s what the Pelicans hope.
Via The Athletic:
“Yeah, I don’t know that we can determine a weight yet. Zion’s still growing,” Griffin said. “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 … So what you have to do with him is to 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.”
Griffin recently projected Zion to be multi-faceted, similar to Draymond Green on offense.
Via Jeff Duncan of The Athletic:
The thing about Zion, though, that excites us is, it’s not that he’s going to carry you offensively, it’s that he’s going to be able to facilitate offense. If you look at him as an extremely athletic Draymond Green type who may be able to facilitate all things for others and get out in transition and make plays … that’s exciting. And because that’s what he natively really does, we’re not going to ask him to carry an undue burden (offensively). We’re going to ask him to be Zion, to figure out how that player interfaces with the rest of the pieces we have and how it can be equative to winning.
Growing still doesn’t address the potential problems concerning Zion’s conditioning habits and maturity, which will be closely watched and criticized by the same media that projected him to be a generational superstar.
This new twist on Zion’s height does, however, ease the current narrative and provide another dimension of hope to offset the negative sentiment that is growing concerning Zion’s future.
The fact that he just signed a $75 million sneaker deal with Jordan Brand, also heightens the expectation that basketball fans have for Williamson. Griffin’s No. 1 job at this juncture is making sure everybody remains calm and Zion has a fair chance to play a few NBA games before we anoint or condemn him.