Zion Williamson is entering his third season with the New Orleans Pelicans, and he’s already had two major surgeries. The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick missed the first 44 games of his rookie season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and will miss the start of the 2021-22 campaign following surgery to repair a right foot fracture.
When he’s been on the court for the Pelicans, Williamson has been spectacular. He’s averaging 25.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 60.4% from the field through his first 85 games and was named an All-Star in 2020-21.
However, Williamson’s latest injury setback supposedly has the Pelicans deeply concerned.
Zion Williamson reportedly reached north of 300 pounds this offseason
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Williamson weighed over 300 pounds in the offseason after undergoing surgery to repair his broken foot. The lefty looked noticeably heavier both during Pelicans Media Day and in a Mountain Dew commercial he was in with Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine.
“He’s since reached north of 300 pounds this offseason, sources said, again fueling concerns among New Orleans staffers similar to the months leading up to his rookie debut,” wrote Fischer. “When he joined the Pelicans’ recent preseason trip to Minnesota, several league personnel on hand were struck by his heavier appearance than his listed playing weight last season of 284 pounds. ‘I know Zion at 280, and he was not 280,’ said one observer.”
The Pelicans are certainly hoping Williamson gets back into playing shape before he returns to the lineup. While fans of the team are in the same boat, they may have other things to worry about as well.
Zion Williamson reportedly not happy with David Griffin
According to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, Williamson doesn’t have the best relationship with Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin, and that has caused some fans in New Orleans to worry that the franchise could lose another superstar. Chris Paul and Anthony Davis began their careers in the Big Easy before ultimately requesting trades.
“Throughout his rookie season, Williamson had grown increasingly frustrated with the Pelicans for the number of hoops they required him to jump through to return from the knee injury he suffered in the preseason,” Clark wrote. “The team initially provided a return-to-play timetable of six to eight weeks, but it took more than three months for Williamson to get back on the floor. When he was finally given the thumbs up to play, he was placed on ‘burst’ limits, which he detested. The way Williamson’s return was handled caused significant tension between him and the team’s medical staff, sources said.”
In the summer of 2022, the Pelicans can offer Williamson a lucrative rookie-scale extension. No top pick in NBA history has chosen the qualifying offer over a maximum contract extension projected to exceed $200 million over five years. While it’s doubtful Williamson will become the first, the dynamic between him and Griffin is undoubtedly one to keep an eye on moving forward.
The easiest way for all the negative noise coming out of New Orleans to quiet down is for Williamson and the team to have success in 2021-22 once the Duke product plays. The Pelicans haven’t made the playoffs since drafting him, and the North Carolina native doesn’t want that to happen again.
All-Star is done with missing the playoffs
Williamson said the Pelicans would not miss the playoffs again under his watch during an interview with Joel Meyers and Antonio Daniels on SiriusXM Radio in early October. It was a bold claim by the forward since it’s unclear when he’ll be cleared to play in 2021-22.
“It was a sickening feeling,” Williamson said. “We weren’t in the playoffs, and I’m watching the playoffs, I’m like, ‘Man, we can be there. Like I know we can be there this year.’ Man, something just took over me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s not happening again. It’s not happening no more.'”
Williamson also said in the interview that he wants to shoot more floaters and mid-range jumpers. According to Basketball Reference, the youngster has attempted a total of 26 mid-range jumpers through his first 85 games.
It will be fascinating to see how Williamson looks when he plays. All eyes will likely be on his weight and interactions with Griffin and coaches.