Zion Williamson did not suit up for the New Orleans Pelicans’ must-win game against the Oklahoma City Thunder this week.
After his team lost, despite him being available physically but not mentally, it led to a fresh round of drama about where things stand between the 22-year-old and the organization that drafted him in 2019.
It started with Williamson’s veteran teammate, C.J. McCollum, seemingly lowkey calling him out.
“We’ve got to be available. We’ve got to do what we need to do off the court in terms of preparation, getting treatment, getting the right sleep, the right type of hydration, having the right type of diet.”
Pelicans guard CJ McCollum 🗣 pic.twitter.com/uJ8FO9eiWa
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 13, 2023
“It’s hard to say what we need to do other than injury because we played ten games together with our core,” McCollum said.
“I would say availability is important. We’ve got to be available. We’ve got to do what we need to do off the court in terms of preparation, getting treatment, getting the right sleep, the right type of hydration, having the right type of diet.
“Everything has to matter to us, for everybody, 1 through 15. This is a performance-driven job. You play at night. Tonight we played a 9 o’clock game. That’s mad late. How are you preparing for a 9 o’clock game?” he continued.
“What is your regimen like? What’s your schedule like? Consistently doing the small stuff, I think, would be very important for us as a team, especially for our younger guys, understanding that you have to get a routine that’s consistent, that builds consistent success.”
It’s hard not to read that as directly aimed at Williamson, whose conditioning was apparently in bad shape heading into this week.
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin spoke to the media this week and alluded to that much.
“I wish I could immediately pinpoint the answer. I think a big part is on him,” Griffin said of what needs to happen for Williamson to return to the floor and play more.
“I think there is a lot he can do better. And he would, I think, tell you that. I think we need to do a better job examining the whole situation top to bottom a little bit better.
“I think putting him in the best position to succeed is important. And I think his participation is a big part of that.”
Williamson has been out of action since January and played in just 29 outings this year. Since being drafted four years ago, he has played in just 114 total games.
That’s not great.
On Friday, Skip Bayless suggested that there is maybe another problem brewing behind the scenes: Williamson’s stepfather’s role in things.
.@RealSkipBayless breaks down the ongoing Zion Williamson-Pelicans injury situation:
“The players are not happy with Zion because they’re fearing he’s getting the wrong advice as a young player.” pic.twitter.com/rN2Q1hE2p7
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) April 12, 2023
“Zion’s independent team of medical people say he’s only 99 percent and they don’t want to completely clear him until he’s 100 percent ready to go,” Bayless said.
“Team management is increasingly at odds with Zion’s stepfather, who is sort of running the show for the Zion camp. The stepfather is increasingly unhappy with the team because it continues to exercise the clause in his contract that every month, they can weigh him.”
This whole situation is turning very messy, very quickly.
Vanessa’s intimate new photos cause a stir. https://t.co/jwwSnS4kQx
— Game 7 (@game7__) April 14, 2023
That is a question all parties involved may eventually have to confront.
The 2022-23 season is a lost one for New Orleans. Despite all the early promise, it ended in disappointment.
Will Williamson and the Pelicans be able to bounce back in 2023-24? Time will tell.
A graduate from the University of Texas, Anthony Amador has been credentialed to cover the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and high school games all over the Lone Star State. Currently, his primary beats are the NBA, MLB, NFL and UFC.