Pelicans star Zion Williamson deserves better from all of us


It’s time to have an honest discussion about some of the talk surrounding Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson.

Quite frankly, this has been unfair to all parties involved.

As most know by now, Williamson, who was selected first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, was plagued with injuries in the first three years of his NBA career. A torn right meniscus in 2019 and a broken right foot in 2021 limited Williamson to just 85 games in his first three NBA seasons and sadly there is still no clear return date in sight.

MORE: How long has Zion Williamson been out? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates

Somehow the discussion went from what it should be, namely the misfortune of a young man who wants to forge his legacy as an NBA star, to what it is Now: Jokes and memes calling him a “bust,” many crossing lines regarding Williamson’s weight and future in the league.

For likes and retweets, many jump at the chance to equate Williamson with Greg Oden, which, in addition to being unfair to Williamson, is also unfair to Oden, who in 2014 played his last NBA game at the age of 26. 34, Oden rose to make an impact as a member of the coaching staff at his Ohio State alma mater.

Oden didn’t follow the trajectory of a typical No. 1 pick, but let’s not minimize the fact that he found his purpose in the basketball world despite having plenty of reasons to drop out of the game.

Yes, Oden missed his entire rookie season through injury and only played 82 games in his first three NBA seasons, but comparing the fates of two young men who just want to play basketball is an upsetting and dishonest half drink. – Empty approach that is becoming too common. None of them asked to be hurt.

You know who else has never asked to be hurt? 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

First of all, comparison is a joy stealer, but if we want to compare Williamson’s fate to anyone else’s, why not Embiid? Is the glass half full approach too optimistic?

Embiid, who broke his navicular bone in his right foot days before the 2014 NBA draft, missed his entire first two NBA seasons due to numerous injury-related setbacks. It was a special situation: he was denied access to the media when he concerns about his maturity, conditioning and weight loomed.

As a third-year rookie, Embiid stormed the league averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but a torn left meniscus ended his season in January, meaning he he had only played 31 total games in the three years since Philadelphia was drafted. him.

If Philadelphia could just bottle that up and get those kinds of contributions from Embiid on a larger scale, surely he’d be an NBA All-Star, wouldn’t he? Spoiler alert: He earned his first of five straight All-Star selections at age 23 and could win the NBA MVP award at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Williamson also stormed the league as a rookie, doing so at age 19. The New Orleans franchise player has proven to be worth the three-month wait, averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on 58.3% shooting in under 28 years. minutes per game, including one of the most memorable debuts in NBA history.

At 20, Williamson earned the first All-Star selection of his career, averaging 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field in 61 games. Newsflash: “Busts” aren’t averaging 27.0 points per game or starting in the All-Star Games in their second season. Future MVPs, however, do.

This brings us to where we are today.

Williamson’s All-Star campaign has only heightened anticipation for his third season, but news of his injury has taken a toll on the excitement of basketball fans around the world. When did people go from disappointed fans to cruel pessimists? There are much more constructive ways to express such disappointment.

Not only did Williamson not ask to be hurt, he also didn’t ask for his injury to heal badly. In December, it was revealed that the injection that Williamson received was to stimulate the healing of his foot. As shown with Embiid’s navicular injury in 2014, setbacks are common with foot injuries, but especially with bigger players. History shows that taking a cautious approach is important over the long term.

As for the long term, New Orleans has the potential to do something special with a line of Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum.

NBA TRADE GRADES: Did Pelicans or Trail Blazers win CJ McCollum trade?

That said, can we stop with the stories that drive Williamson away from the franchise? And please stop trying to push the Pelicans out of town in New Orleans. The Saints go always to be No. 1, but that shouldn’t be an indictment of the state of pro basketball in the city.

It’s equally dishonest and unfair for New Orleans to act like it’s the only city in the NBA where basketball doesn’t reign supreme, and it reduces the number of true Pelicans fans who are invested in this franchise.

Believe me, there are many.

Now, I admit that the situation with the pelicans is also special. The lack of consistent updates and Williamson’s choice to continue his rehabilitation away from the Oregon team should raise your eyebrows. I certainly have.

JJ Redick calling Williamson a “loose teammate” was a little harsh but, given their previous relationship as teammates, perhaps wasn’t completely out of line, especially since it was in response to the news that Williamson had not contacted McCollum over a week after the trade.

MORE: JJ Redick rips Pelicans’ Zion Williamson on ‘First Take’

In a recent episode of the “Dan Le Batard Show”, Stan Van Gundy, who coached Redick and Williamson last season, added the kind of context that often gets lost in these discussions, saying when [Williamson’s] not playing – off season, breaks, injured, whatever – I think he just wants to be alone. I think he doesn’t like not playing, he wants to be alone and getting ready is a big part of that.

“And at that point, all he wants to do is come back and play to relate.”

McCollum himself addressed the saga, telling reporters to “leave the young man alone, man. He’s trying to rehabilitate in peace, trying to prepare to come back.”

Williamson’s new teammate went on to add “He’s been going through a lot. You put him on the spot daily and I think he’s just trying to recover at his own pace and really focus on his rehabilitation. I’ve already been hurt before, so I know what it is. You feel disconnected.

That said, Williamson is only 21 years old. Age shouldn’t be an excuse for everything, but almost anyone who turned 21 before will attest that at that age you’re still figuring things out.

So please give Williamson some grace as he figures things out and works to get back on the floor, where he wows us every night.

We may not know exactly when, but we do know that when he returns, he will pick up where he left off.


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