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#pounditSunday, October 24, 2021

Articles tagged: New Orleans Pelicans

Has Zion Williamson’s weight become an issue again?

Zion Williamson shooting in practice

Zion Williamson will miss the start of the regular season due to an injury for the second time in his three years in the NBA, and that has once again led to concerns about the former first overall pick’s weight.

Williamson is one of the bulkier players in the NBA. He is listed at 284 pounds, which is quite the build considering he is 6-foot-6. The New Orleans Pelicans announced last week that Williamson will not play at the start of the year, as he is still recovering from foot surgery he underwent during the summer. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Williamson has let his weight get away from him again while rehabbing.

When Williamson traveled to Minnesota recently for the Pelicans’ preseason game against the Timberwolves, NBA personnel were said to be “struck by his heavier appearance.” Sources told Fischer that Williamson weighs over 300 pounds.

“I know Zion at 280, and he was not 280,” one person who saw Williamson said.

Williamson missed several weeks at the start of his rookie season two years ago due to a knee injury. If you remember, there was a report that even Nike — his biggest sponsor — was concerned about his weight. The talk resurfaced during the NBA bubble in Orlando, though Williamson supposedly slimmed down again after that.

The trend is obviously a troubling one. Weight issues and foot injuries tend to go hand-in-hand. That’s why centers and bigger forwards are often worst affected by them.

The Pelicans contradicted themselves recently with their timeline for Williamson’s return. There has been speculation that they could have him on a minutes restriction when he’s cleared, which is something to monitor given that Williamson was reportedly frustrated at one point with how the Pelicans handled one of his injuries.

Photo: Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) laughs while warming up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Pelicans contradicting themselves about Zion Williamson’s health

Zion Williamson shooting in practice

Zion Williamson’s health is now officially a cause for concern, and the New Orleans Pelicans’ statements about it are complicating matters even further.

Pelicans executive David Griffin announced Thursday that Williamson will miss the start of the regular season with his foot injury. The All-Star forward will be re-evaluated in two weeks and currently has no timetable to return.

The injury is not a new one, as Griffin told the media roughly three weeks ago that Williamson underwent surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot suffered earlier in the summer. But at the time, Griffin said that Williamson’s timeline “should get him back on the court in time for the regular season.”

On Thursday though, Griffin tried to backtrack by saying that he had meant Williamson would be back some time during the regular season, not at the start. Griffin also said that “nothing has gone wrong” with Williamson in terms of a setback since his earlier comments.

Any reasonable person would take Griffin’s “in time for the regular season” comment to mean the start of the regular season. If player was expected out until March (still technically the regular season), nobody would say of him before the season began, “We expect him back on the court in time for the regular season.” Thus, Griffin’s comments come across as confusing and self-contradictory, especially since Williamson did not suffer a setback.

What is even more concerning is that Williamson reportedly was already unhappy with the way that Griffin and the Pelicans handled an injury that he had in his rookie season. The Pelicans’ conflicting comments about his latest injury bring to mind the Grand Theft Auto “here we go again” meme.

Photo: Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) laughs while warming up before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Pelicans employees compared David Griffin to Jerry Krause

David Griffin

The New Orleans Pelicans made a big splash when they hired David Griffin to run their basketball operations department in 2019. Griffin is viewed as one of the better executives in the NBA after he built a championship team around LeBron James in Cleveland, but apparently those who work with him are not all that fond of him.

Christian Clark of NOLA.com published a lengthy article on Wednesday that pulled back the curtain on some of the supposed dysfunction that exists within the Pelicans organization. Clark was told by sources that some team employees have grown to “actively dislike” Griffin. One of the ways they expressed that to one another was by referring to Griffin as “Griff Krause.”

That is a reference to Jerry Krause, who was the general manager of the Chicago Bulls when they won six titles. Krause has widely been blamed for breaking up the Bulls dynasty. He butted heads with Michael Jordan over personnel moves and alienated Phil Jackson. Some of the issues with Krause were highlighted in “The Last Dance” documentary series last year, though he is not alive to share his side of the story.

According to Clark, people with the Pelicans were unhappy with how Griffin handled Alvin Gentry’s firing after the 2019-20 season. Griffin blamed Gentry for New Orleans’ struggles earlier that season, though some did not feel the head coach was at fault. In one exchange, Griffin supposedly arrogantly told someone, “I give Alvin all the answers to the test, and he still fails.”

There were also issues between Zion Williamson and Griffin. The former No. 1 overall pick was reportedly unhappy with the way the Pelicans handled his knee injury his rookie year, which led to him having a poor relationship with Griffin.

Believe it or not, Griffin is not the only executive who has been mocked using the Krause comparison.

The Pelicans fired Stan Van Gundy after one season and have replaced him with Willie Green. Their young roster, lead by Williamson and Brandon Ingram, has a lot of talent. If the team continues to struggle, the internal issues with Griffin could come to a boil.

Chris Paul came close to returning to New Orleans?

Chris Paul Suns

New Orleans’ prodigal son very nearly made his way home this offseason.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN said this week on “The Hoop Collective” podcast that the New Orleans Pelicans offered Paul a three-year, $100 million deal. Windhorst adds that the 11-time All-Star appeared to have entertained the offer for some time. But the Suns ended up giving Paul a $120 million contract with a partially-guaranteed fourth year, which he accepted.

Paul, now 36, was drafted by New Orleans in 2005 and played the first six seasons of his career with them back when they were still the Hornets. The team just hired former Suns assistant Willie Green to be their next head coach. They also would have been able to complement Paul with a young core led by Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

That said, Paul just made the Finals with Phoenix’s fine young core of their own led by Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. With his new deal paying him until age 40, it was simply too good for Paul to walk away from, despite New Orleans’ best efforts to bring him home.

H/T RealGM

Report: Pelicans wanted to bring back Chris Paul

Chris Paul Suns

Chris Paul appears likely to remain with the Phoenix Suns, but a somewhat surprising team apparently had hopes of luring him away.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the New Orleans Pelicans were determined to try to sign Paul at the start of free agency. New Pelicans coach Willie Green is close with Paul. However, the team’s interest predates Green’s hire, as they tried to trade for Paul before last season when he ultimately wound up in Phoenix.

The Pelicans appear unlikely to succeed in their quest, however. Fischer reports that Paul appears “all but destined” to return to the Suns on a three-year deal worth roughly $90 million.

Paul originally became a star with the New Orleans franchise after being drafted in 2005. It doesn’t sound like he ever had much interest in returning, however. As for the Pelicans, they’re clearly expecting to say goodbye to Lonzo Ball, as they have been linked to several top point guards.

Willie Green hired as Pelicans head coach

Willie Green

Willie Green has been considered the frontrunner for the New Orleans Pelicans head coach job for quite some time, and the team has now made it official.

The Pelicans announced on Thursday that they have hired Green as their head coach.

Green previously worked as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns, so he was credited with helping the team reach the NBA Finals this year. The 39-year-old played in the NBA for 12 seasons and served as an assistant under Steve Kerr for the Warriors from 2016-2019. He joined Monty Williams’ staff in Phoenix in 2019, where he has been instrumental in coordinating a defense that has become one of the best in the NBA.

The Pelicans fired former head coach Stan Van Gundy after just one season with the team, likely due to philosophical differences. They obviously feel Green will be a better asset for Zion Williamson and the rest of the team’s young core.

Pelicans reportedly want to sign Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry

The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the most promising collections of young talent in the NBA, and they may feel that Kyle Lowry would be the perfect player to lead those players going forward.

Lowry is set to become a free agent this summer, and Marc Stein of the New York Times reported on Monday that the Pelicans are planning to pursue the veteran point guard.

Lowry is 35, but there will be high interest in him this summer. He averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 assists per game for the Toronto Raptors this season. You can understand why the Pelicans would feel he could be an asset to Zion Williamson as the former No. 1 overall pick enters his third NBA season.

The Los Angeles Lakers are another team to watch with Lowry. While they do not have much salary cap space, they may have a unique opportunity to acquire Lowry by using one of their own soon-to-be free agents.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0

Report: Willie Green frontrunner for Pelicans head coach job

Willie Green

The New Orleans Pelicans appear to be closing in on a new head coach.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green is the “strong frontrunner” to land the Pelicans job.

Green hasn’t been a huge name in public coaching rumors this offseason, but the Suns’ lead assistant has paid his dues. He had a 12-season playing career in the NBA and served as an assistant under Steve Kerr for the Warriors from 2016-2019. He joined Monty Williams’ staff in Phoenix in 2019, where he has been instrumental in coordinating a defense that has become one of the best in the NBA.

The Pelicans recently parted ways with coach Stan Van Gundy amid what appeared to be clear philosophical differences. The hope will be that Green provides the fresh voice and improved atmosphere that the young team seems to be looking for.

These teams reportedly have interest in Kevin Love trade

Kevin Love

Kevin Love battled injuries this past season and averaged career-lows in many statistical categories, but it sounds like there could still be a robust trade market for him this summer.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to explore trade possibilities for Love this offseason. According to Sam Amico of Hoops Wire, there are at least five teams that have interest in the 32-year-old — the New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers.

New Orleans would be an interesting spot for Love. The Pelicans have a core of young players in Zion Williams, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball that have seemingly infinite potential. They could use a veteran presence like Love now that they ousted Stan Van Gundy after just one season with the team.

The other four teams should all be playoff contenders and may consider Love a piece that could help put them over the top.

Love averaged 12.2 points and 7.4 rebounds this year, which were the worst marks of his career.

Love almost certainly wants a trade, as a recent report indicated he does not really fit in with Cleveland’s future plans.

Stan Van Gundy responds to talk that Zion Williamson pushed him out

Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy lasted just one season with the New Orleans Pelicans, which led many to jump to the conclusion that he was pushed out by the team’s young star players. Some speculated that Van Gundy must not have gotten alone with Zion Williamson, but the coach says that was not the case.

Van Gundy discussed his firing during an appearance on the “STUpodity” podcast this week. He said it bothers him when players are blamed for coaching changes because those decisions are ultimately made by the front office. More specifically, he said Williamson was not responsible for him losing his job.

“I know this, regardless of what happened in that regard, Zion’s no coach killer,” Van Gundy said, as transcribed by ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “He’s a guy who is gonna help you win a lot of games. He plays the game the right way. One of the things I’ll miss is the opportunity to continue to coach him. He’s so unique in the way that he plays the game and the things that he can do, it really gets your mind spinning as a coach and you have a lot of possibilities in what you can do with him. That was fun to explore. I’m happy with what we did with Zion. I think we helped him. How anyone else felt about that would be up to them.”

After Van Gundy was fired, a report from The Athletic claimed Williamson’s family was unhappy with the coach. There has also been talk that Williamson and Brandon Ingram were frustrated with Van Gundy’s coaching style. Van Gundy said he never heard anything about that but did not rule it out.

“If they were unhappy, I didn’t hear about it,” he said. “Zion was unhappy with us not winning more games, but Zion never expressed to me any of that. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t unhappy; it’s possible that they were unhappy with me and that’s what led to the change.”

Williamson had an outstanding individual season with 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He shot 61.1 percent from the field. Despite that, the Pelicans failed to qualify for the play-in tournament.

The Pelicans are determined to keep Williamson happy, and they have already shown that in a variety of ways. Williamson may not have been responsible for Van Gundy’s firing, but it is safe to conclude that Van Gundy would still be with the team if Williamson wanted him to be.