At this point, it’s par for the course when LaVar Ball says something absurd about one of his sons or basketball in general. His latest, though, is particularly noteworthy for its silliness.
Ball recent joined Complex’s “Load Management” podcast, in which he said that his son Lonzo essentially made Zion Williamson the star that he is with the Pelicans.
“Take my boy out the situation and see how much buzz you get,” Ball said, via Jose Martinez of Complex. “He’d probably still be out for the season. … I don’t care how fast you can run and jump, if you ain’t got nobody to get you that ball, guess what you going to be doing? Running and jumping out there for nothing.”
Yeah, no. Williamson was one of the biggest stars in the sport at Duke and one of the most hyped top draft picks in recent memory. Lonzo Ball had nothing to do with any of that.
The reality is that Lonzo and Zion have had a mutually beneficial on-court relationship, and have made each other better. Ball is having his best NBA season in New Orleans. All of this is true, but LaVar doesn’t care to draw attention to that. He’d rather just make stupid comments like this one.
Zion Williamson has been wrapped up in a legal battle since last year with a marketing agency that used to represent him, and the latest filings are sure to call more attention to the case.
Miami-based company Prime Sports Marketing filed a lawsuit against Williamson last year alleging that the New Orleans Pelicans star backed out of an exclusive marketing agreement that he signed days after he declared for the NBA Draft. The firm is seeking at least $100 million in damages.
As Daniel Wallach of The Athletic pointed out on Sunday, Williamson’s former agent Gina Ford recently served requests for admission in the lawsuit asking Williamson to admit that he and his representatives received “money, benefits, favors or other things of value” to attend Duke University and wear Nike’s brand. Williamson is also accused of receiving improper benefits from Adidas prior to enrolling at Duke.
NEW: Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent has served requests for admission in their lawsuit asking him to admit that he received “money, benefits, favors or other things of value” to attend Duke University and to wear and/or use Nike and Adidas.
Wow. That escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/59gWX5bNKX
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) May 10, 2020
Wallach speculates that the requests are likely more of a “veiled threat” aimed at getting Williamson and his current marketing agency, CAA Sports, to settle the lawsuit. Though, there will now be pressure on the NCAA to pursue the claims.
This is not the first we have heard about improper activity between Nike and Williamson. Michael Avenatti, the former Stormy Daniels attorney who was arrested last year and charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to extort Nike, also claimed Nike approved thousands of dollars in payments to help steer Williamson to Duke.
The New Orleans Pelicans could be back to exercising caution with Zion Williamson if they are playing basketball again any time in the near future.
Speaking during a conference call with the media this week, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry hinted at the possibility of a minutes restriction for the No. 1 overall pick if the team’s season resumes.
“We’ll have those conversations,” said Gentry, per NBA.com. “Obviously, his health will be the number one priority, but the restriction was really off after his first 5-6 games. So, he was playing the minutes that he would normally play, considering with any situation really. But, it will be something that we talk about when we do resume and as far as how it looks for Zion from a minute standpoint, and we’ll do that really with some of the other players.
“This is unprecedented, really,” Gentry added. “You play in a basketball game, you play 60 games, then all of a sudden the season ends, then now it’s going to start back up. So, this is going to be something that is different for every single player that has ever played in the NBA or is playing in the NBA now.”
Williamson, 19, missed the first several months of the season with a meniscus tear and did have a moderate minutes restriction in place upon his initial return. In his 19 total games before play was suspended though, Williamson averaged a robust 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game.
At 28-36, the Pelicans were out of the playoffs, so there is no guarantee their season continues, even if the 2019-20 campaign does pick up again. Should New Orleans be back in action however, limiting Williamson’s playing time makes sense, despite that previously being unpopular with the team’s fans.
- Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson was unable to overtake Ja Morant in the Rookie of the Year race, in part due to the early suspension of the season, but the New Orleans Pelicans star seems to be at peace with the situation.
In an interview Monday with Ernie Johnson that aired on the NBA’s official social media pages, Williamson spoke on his Memphis Grizzlies counterpart Morant likely winning Rookie of the Year honors.
“My goal was if I could rally my team to the playoffs, hopefully I could make a run for it,” said Williamson, per Christian Clark of the New Orleans Advocate. “But it’s God’s plan at this point. If Ja wins it, I’m going to be happy for Ja.”
Williamson missed the first three months of the season as he recovered from meniscus surgery, and the Pelicans fell behind in the Western Conference playoff picture in his absence. When he finally did make his debut, he only got 19 games to make an impact before play was suspended on March 11.
As for Morant, who was drafted No. 2 overall last year to Williamson’s No. 1, he was a big reason why the Grizzlies outperformed expectations this year. With 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game, the former Murray State star had led Memphis to the No. 8 seed in the West when the season was suspended.
Williamson certainly had his moments this season though, and it sounds like he is doing a good job of maintaining perspective here with his entire NBA career still ahead of him.
The NBA is exploring the possibility of staging a HORSE tournament between top players, and some big names are being floated as possible participants.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, top names such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Zion Williamson have been mentioned as possible competitors. The recently retired Dwyane Wade has been considered as well.
Names I've heard that could be involved are Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Donovan Mitchell & possibly Zion Williamson. None are confirmed yet. https://t.co/fFcdqD08vu
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) April 4, 2020
Also heard Dwyane Wade. Again, no names confirmed yet.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) April 4, 2020
The event remains in the planning stages, and nothing is final. It’s an effort to provide some form of entertainment during the league’s shutdown, and these are definitely top players worth watching. There are a lot of logistical hurdles to clear in this endeavor before it becomes a reality, though.
Several NBA players are making a contribution toward arena staff while the NBA is suspended due to the coronavirus, but Zion Williamson is going above and beyond.
The New Orleans Pelicans center said Friday he will be covering the salaries of all workers at Smoothie King Center for the next 30 days.
Zion Williamson says he will cover the salaries of Smoothie King Center staff. pic.twitter.com/BpkmOQpCM8
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 13, 2020
Williamson isn’t the first to do this, but it’s a hugely magnanimous gesture. While he was the first overall pick and is making just shy of $10 million this year, it’s a pretty big commitment for a guy who’s only 19 years old. Plus, it may be an even bigger commitment than the ones made by some of his peers. We can only hope more players and owners follow suit.
- Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson further cemented himself as a rising NBA superstar by going toe-to-toe with LeBron James on Sunday night, and JaVale McGee appreciated the performance so much that he wanted a souvenir from it. Williamson was happy to oblige, though it was a bit awkward that he didn’t ask for anything in return.
McGee, an 11-year NBA veteran, approached Williamson after the game to ask the rookie for his jersey. Players typically swap jerseys in situations like that, but Zion apparently didn’t need a souvenir from McGee.
Zion just gave JaVale his jersey and left pic.twitter.com/RtYlAeYVSf
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 2, 2020
Williamson obviously meant no disrespect to McGee, and it’s possible the 19-year-old just didn’t think to ask for McGee’s jersey. Of course, fans love ripping on McGee for some of the blunders he has made in the past, so plenty of people got a kick out of Williamson not bothering with the jersey swap.
Williamson had 35 points compared to LeBron’s 34, but the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans by a score of 122-114. LeBron and Zion seemed to feed off one another, and LeBron showed the former Duke star some love after the game.