‘I want to be here’

New Orleans Pelicans in front of Zion Williamson reiterated his desire to join the organization, speaking Saturday at a local YMCA, where he hosts basketball and youth camp registrations.

Speaking to reporters, Williamson was asked if opening camp was a sign he wanted to stay in New Orleans.

“I want to be here,” Williamson told reporters at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans. “For now, this really has nothing to do with that. It’s just that I want to be a mainstay in my community.”

On May 26, the Pelicans allowed Williamson to return to play without restriction as he continued into rehab due to a broken right foot that cost him the entire 2021-22 season. Williamson has worked in New Orleans with several other Pelicans since then.

“It’s been a long year for me in terms of detox and mental struggles,” Williamson said. “I’m fine now. I’m ready to start working.”

Williamson said he will spend the rest of the summer training in preparation for 2022-23 while also taking a week or two to himself before the season begins.

Also on the table this summer could be a potential five-year, $186 million maximum rookie extension with New Orleans. The Pelicans could consider adding protections to the deal rather than just giving Williamson a fully guaranteed maximum, but those talks should take place this summer.

When asked about the extension, Williamson flashed a big smile and said, “You’ve got to ask Pels, honey.”

Williamson said he’s not paying too much attention to the ongoing NBA Finals, instead focusing on his practice with teammates who are in town.

“Pels in the first round. That’s all I need to see to get really excited about getting back there,” Williamson said, referring to the Pelicans’ first series against Phoenix after winning two play-ins. “It’s exciting to see young players. Jose [Alvarado]Trey [Murphy III]Herb [Jones]Jason [Hayes]. Just blossoming into players I know they can be and they know they can be. Then see [Brandon Ingram]. The name speaks for itself. Then CJ [McCollum] added, it’s something to see. The fans made it so much better. “

Williamson addressed the campers present and expressed how important he was to partnering with the local YMCA.

“When I was a kid, after school, the bus picked them up and took them home. I got on the YMCA bus. My mom wouldn’t leave work until a certain point,” Williamson said. “I was at the YMCA from 3:30 to 6:7. I did that for about five, six years.

“The summer camp aspect of it, that’s how I fell in love with the game of basketball. When I was 4. When I was 5. I first met my stepfather. We’ve only been in the gym since 9 up to the age of 5. It’s not all physical activity. It’s teaching, learning. Learning to carry yourself as a man, as a woman. That’s why I’m here to do all the things. hey, that’s why it’s special to me.”

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