The fans who tuned in to ESPN’s pregame coverage of San Antonio and New Orleans on Wednesday night got a little extra treat. There was a Zion Williamson who looked on the field. Before the match, Williamson did some work on the pitch and put on a show for those in attendance, mostly team staff.
But like most things in this social media era, Zion’s screen and, most notably, his baseline 360 wind turbine can, which was posted on Twitter and shown on national television, immediately got a reaction from everyone. It’s always nice to see Williamson on the floor as it looks like his foot injury is about to heal. But the clever dunking before the match is just a tease for fans.
At this point, it’s probably best for the Pelicans, who beat the Spurs 113-103, to keep Zion in the background. The team came so far without him as he did not fit into one game in the regular season. Let him get ready for next season and work on getting back in shape. No one needs to watch Williamson warm up as if he has to play, then go back to the locker room and get out for opening tips in streetwear. Zion’s suit was dope, but still not the attire that helps the Pelicans on the field.
I’m pretty sure Commissioner Adam Silver saw the Williamson windmill before the match and probably shook his head disappointed. Silver knew Zion did not play in yesterday’s match and I’m sure he’s been frustrated that all these players are taking a year or longer to return from injury. Williamson has been out for a year, as have Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles and Jamal Murray in Denver. Ben Simmons has not played an NBA game in almost an entire calendar year, and for James Wiseman, a year has passed now.
So the league may not be happy with this, combined with the strain management dilemma they have been dealing with for about a decade. This happens when the new guy comes in and his approach is the opposite of the previous commissioner’s. Former NBA commissioner David Stern ruled like a tyrant, and his words were final. Stern mostly did not address players, and Silver has apparently done nothing but that. Now the player-friendly attitude is constantly biting Silver in the ass. Say what you will, but there’s not much Silver can do about players’ load management. If a player says he has back problems, the team must basically take him at his word. Hmmm, does that sound familiar?
Seeing Zion thump freely before playtime only increases fans’ hopes of getting it emptied minutes later when his status is the same as it has been all year. He’s still out indefinitely. I honestly wonder if he’s ever come back as a pelican. Rumors have been floating around for a while now that he might not be happy in New Orleans.
If this is true of Zion not to be happy in Big Easy, this puts New Orleans in a difficult position. Williamson has so much untapped potential and he is still so young at 21 years old. But we know how these situations usually go in the NBA. When the star player is unhappy and no longer wants to be part of the franchise, that guy can almost always force himself out of town. If Zion is tired of the Pelicans organization, it’s only a matter of time before this scenario unfolds.
That’s where we are now and the pelicans are in muddy water trying to navigate the whole thing. Zion damage problem. And they are apparently not going to get much help from the Commissioner’s office. If Williamson is not ready to go at the start of the 2022-2023 campaign, then it’s probably time for New Orleans to reduce their losses and move on.
Do not get me wrong, it would be boring to swap a player away with such an upside in his early 20s, but when he lacks so much time on the pitch, the team may not have many other options. If a player is so injured that he can not play games, he does not have to be out on the floor and carry the way Williamson did before this play-in against Spurs.
Even though fans are not in the arena while he warms up, everyone has a camera and that session will be recorded and distributed online as it was. People see those footage on the way to the game, so when they arrive, Zion is on the sidelines in a suit with his flashy jewelry on. It does not look good and sends the wrong message to fans. The whole pregame training in the arena just has to stop. It is unnecessary and only serves as a disappointment for fans if the player does not want to participate in tonight’s match.