While it’s great that Zion Williamson is finally ready to shed his life as an influencer for a career in professional basketball, no one wants to hear the frustrations of a player who hasn’t played in a single consequential NBA game. The New Orleans Pelicans’ forward doesn’t sound happy with his role, and is either being held back by the coaches, or learning that the game is a lot harder when you’re not physically superior to the other nine guys on the floor.
On Monday, the social media star gave NBA X another sort of content, saying he’s “taking a little bit of a backseat right now.”
Regardless of the context, or what Williamson meant to say, hoops fans can sense the slightest whiff of displeasure like a shark smells blood. If the Pels’ free fall in the standings continues — they’ve lost five straight amid a litany of injuries — fans may go into a frenzy over a potential trade request, but why?
Like so much in the Association over the past five years, Williamson is only good in theory. It’s akin to how, hypothetically, the Nets were supposed to win a title, or Ja Morant was a perennial first-team All-NBA point guard.
The New Orleans Pelicans made consecutive trips to the play-in tournament the past two seasons, and even turned one into a playoff appearance, yet Zion was only there in spirit and street clothes. After being called out repeatedly, be it by a noted sex worker for philandering, or by teammate C.J. McCollum for a clear lack of professionalism, he shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
A cliche that gets perpetuated by athletes who struggle to stay healthy is “Their body betrayed them.” Well, that can go both ways, and frolicking around the French Quarter with a mango daiquiri in one hand and a beignet in the other will set you back quickly.
I remember this story vividly because it’s so funny, but also so illustrative. A friend of mine went to the doctor for a physical the day after getting back from a long weekend in New Orleans, and the doc almost did a spit-take looking at his results. Now, the friend can readily be described as an alcoholic, but imagine the damage one could do with a bottomless bank account and a permanent address in Crescent City?
NBA franchises aren’t going to hold a star’s place setting at the end of the table for when he decides to show up, and by all accounts, Williamson hasn’t shown up. There might be another team desperate enough to give him a king’s treatment, and that organization is the Knicks, who offer a new playground for Williamson to gorge himself on, so yeah, have fun, New York.
Until then, playtime is over, and that’s not code for more load management.
Zion Williamson had (still has?) a chance to command his own franchise, and be a super-duper star. However, forgive the Pelicans for asking him to earn it, because they’re done spoon-feeding him — and they should be.