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.
Zion Williamson’s rookie deal with the New Orleans Pelicans runs through 2023, but some in his inner circle might not even be able to wait that long.
Shams Charania, Joe Vardon, and William Guillory of The Athletic released an explosive report Thursday about the Pelicans in the aftermath of head coach Stan Van Gundy’s firing. The report stated that certain members of Williamson’s family want him on another team. It also said Williamson’s family has “thinly-veiled unhappiness” with the Pelicans and voiced some displeasure with the organization for much of the season, particularly for their perceived failure to live up to the standard for a star like Williamson.
Van Gundy was allegedly one of the targets of criticism from Williamson’s family, who believed he was too rigid and demanding. The Pelicans also reportedly irritated Williamson himself with their handling of guard JJ Redick’s departure. Redick is described as a a veteran whom Williamson had grown comfortable with.
The former No. 1 overall pick Williamson had a phenomenal individual season. He finished the year with 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game on a stout 61.1 percent from the field. But the Pelicans could not even qualify for the play-in tournament, finishing 31-41. They did not fare much better when Williamson was a rookie last season either, going 30-42 under former head coach Alvin Gentry.
We recently heard that Williamson himself was unhappy with Van Gundy’s coaching style. But even with Van Gundy now ousted, it sounds like the Pelicans still have a lot more work to do to tide over Williamson’s camp.
The New Orleans Pelicans made the somewhat surprising decision to fire coach Stan Van Gundy after just one season. Though the move seemingly came out of nowhere, it certainly appears that it had been coming for a while.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Van Gundy’s coaching and communication styles failed to connect with Pelicans players and staff. In addition, Van Gundy’s methodical offense and preference for playing veterans over younger players created friction with executive vice president David Griffin and the front office, who felt that Van Gundy was not making the most of the roster that had been constructed for him.
Most notably, Van Gundy seemingly had issues with the franchise’s star players, and his old-school style clashed with the team’s younger core and identity. The report states that the move to fire Van Gundy was partly to please Zion Williamson. Griffin wants Williamson used more as a primary ball-handler, a role Williamson apparently likes but Van Gundy was less sold on. Griffin and the team’s basketball operations also wanted to see the team play at a faster, less methodical pace than Van Gundy preferred.
Forward Brandon Ingram was also reported to have become unhappy with Van Gundy’s leadership.
The abbreviated preseason and lack of practices hurt Van Gundy’s ability to bond with his team, but it wasn’t just on-court issues that got Van Gundy fired. He also apparently failed to develop much of a relationship with Gayle Benson, the team’s principal owner.
It’s clear that Williamson is the player the Pelicans want to build around, and Griffin is actively trying to do things to increase the chances of him staying in New Orleans whenever he becomes an unrestricted free agent, which won’t be until 2024 at the earliest. That mindset led to statements like this one, and apparently it’s played a role in this coaching change as well.
Zion Williamson is definitely an A-list talent, but that does not necessarily mean that he is clamoring to move to an A-list market.
Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported this weekend that the New Orleans Pelicans star Williamson may be content to remain in a small market. While Williamson is “genuinely fond” of Madison Square Garden, he is reportedly not intimidated by the challenge of trying to win in a small market.
Williamson, 20, finished his second season with averages of 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He will be eligible for a contract extension in the summer of 2022.
The former Duke star caused a frenzy earlier this year with some gushing comments about Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks. The Pelicans do have work to do to complement Williamson. They finished the year 31-41 and did not even qualify for the play-in tournament. But if they can get their act together, Williamson may not mind sticking around for the long-term, even without the glitz and glamour of a bigger market.
Zion Williamson definitely does not want to lose his alley-oop partner.
During his exit interview on Monday, the New Orleans Pelicans star told reporters that he would like Lonzo Ball to re-sign with the team.
“It’d be dope,” said Williamson of Ball potentially returning, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “Me, Brandon [Ingram] and Zo, the three of us have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back. He knows that.
“But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is Zo is a grown man, so he’ll make the decision that’s best for him,” Williamson added. “The only thing I can say is, I hope he stays.”
Ball, 23, is coming off his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. That means that the Pelicans can match any offer sheet that Ball signs with another team.
For his part, Ball said in his own exit interview that he would “love” to be back in New Orleans but would need to have the discussion with his agent.
A big contract may be awaiting Ball following his best offensive season yet. He put up 14.6 points a game on 41/38/78 shooting splits, all career-highs. But there is uncertainty whether Ball will actually return to the Pelicans, so it may not be as simple as Williamson is hoping for here.
David Griffin was furious with the NBA over the injury Zion Williamson suffered on Friday, and the way the New Orleans Pelicans executive voiced his frustration has cost him a large sum of money.
The NBA announced on Sunday that Griffin has been fined $50,000 for “public criticism of the officiating and comments detrimental to the NBA.”
Williamson suffered a fractured finger on his left hand during the Pelicans’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. The team said he will be sidelined indefinitely, which is going to make it much more difficult for New Orleans to qualify for the play-in tournament.
Griffin was obviously upset by the news, and he decided to lash out at NBA officials for not doing enough to protect Williamson. You can read Griffin’s comments here.
The Pelicans entered Sunday in 11th place in the Western Conference. They’re two games back of the No. 10 seed San Antonio Spurs with just five games remaining in the regular season.
New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin is furious about Zion Williamson’s injury — and what he thinks led to it.
Williamson is out indefinitely with a broken left ring finger, jeopardizing the Pelicans’ fading playoff hopes and potentially ending the star forward’s season. In a frustrated media session Friday, Griffin blamed NBA officials for failing to protect Williamson, adding that the forward is now hurt because he is “mauled” in the paint regularly and nothing is done about it.
Griffin’s frustration is certainly understandable, and he probably has a fine coming his way for these comments. At a certain point, though, there’s only so much you can do to protect a player like Williamson. He’s going to be playing in the paint, and there will be contact. Even if referees are calling everything, it doesn’t mean he won’t get hit.
You can understand Griffin’s frustration. After all, Williamson had a similar injury scare a little over a month ago. That mostly outlines the nature of the game, not that the referees didn’t do enough to protect him.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ hopes of making the NBA play-in tournament were dealt a severe blow on Friday with the announcement that Zion Williamson will be out indefinitely.
According to the Pelicans, Williamson suffered a fractured left ring finger, and will be sidelined indefinitely while a treatment plan and timetable are worked out.
The Pelicans’ playoff hopes look to be fading fast, with Brandon Ingram already day-to-day with an ankle sprain. Williamson is an even bigger loss. He’d been carrying the team lately, averaging 28.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in his last ten games. He’d even been mixing in a new role that seemed to be making him even more effective.
The Pelicans are a game and a half behind the San Antonio Spurs for the tenth spot in the Western Conference. With only six games left, the Pelicans can’t really afford to lose any more, and that’s why Williamson’s injury might be the end of their postseason chances.
Zion Williamson looks very much like a No. 1 overall pick, but he is still attracting some professional haters.
Retired NBA legend Charles Oakley spoke this week on SiriusXM NBA Radio. During the appearance, Oakley criticized Williamson’s style of play.
“[He] ain’t doing nothing special,” said Oakley of the New Orleans Pelicans star, per Diamond Leung of The Athletic. “He’s just putting the ball down. Guys they don’t slide no more. They reach in and then look behind like, ‘Oh, I thought I had help.’ There ain’t no help. Keep him in front for 2-3 dribbles, you might have help.”
Oakley’s take definitely comes across as bizarre and out-of-touch. The 20-year-old Williamson is far from an unskilled brute who just bum-rushes the rim on every possession. Williamson is very agile for a player of his size and is developing as an elite playmaker too. If stopping Williamson was as easy as sliding your feet on defense, everybody would have figured it out by now.
Williamson’s numbers speak for themselves. He is averaging 27.0 points per game this season on 61.7 percent from the field despite not having a reliable three-point shot yet. That means that Williamson’s style is more old-school than most players these days, making Oakley’s criticisms here extra strange.
Zion Williamson’s comments about how much he enjoyed playing at Madison Square Garden got a lot of attention on Sunday, but there’s actually some reason to be mindful of what they could mean for the future.
On Sunday, Williamson was effusive in expressing his love for playing at Madison Square Garden. The New Orleans Pelicans star even went on to say that it was his favorite place to play aside from New Orleans.
Appearing on ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out that Williamson tends to be choosy with his words, and his comments could be “something to watch down the road.”
“I think it’s something to watch down the road,” Wojnarowski said. “I think if you follow Zion Williamson closely, he doesn’t just talk to talk. He’s pretty particular with what he says and when he says it.
“I think we all know with New York, if you have a competent product on the floor, if that team is run well, Madison Square Garden and New York is a place that players should want to play. We’ll see how New York is able to carry that forward to a time where it’s a more timely conversation with players like Zion Williamson.”
Remember: Williamson isn’t even a restricted free agent until 2023, and the Pelicans will ultimately be able to offer him the most money. It’s a fun dream for Knicks fans to hold onto, though.