One of the biggest topics on sports debate shows are the rumors swirling around NBA circles that Pelicans star Zion Williamson wants out of New Orleans. The rumor stems from his alleged relationship with Pelicans Executive Vice President David Griffin that has been reported to be a sour one.
To add more fuel to the fire, Williamson talked glowingly about playing at Madison Square Garden, creating more speculation and headlines that the superstar forward wants to play for the New York Knicks.
"New York is the Mecca of basketball. I love playing here,” Williamson said to reporters. “This atmosphere, whether they're cheering or booing for you, it's amazing. Outside of New Orleans, this might be my favorite place to play."
Take that quote as you will, but Williamson’s rift with the Pelicans front office seems to be very real. Christian Clark of NOLA.com published a lengthy story on Griffin’s tenure so far in NOLA and, according to Clark, the rift began with the handling of Zion’s knee injury his rookie year.
“Throughout his rookie season, Williamson had grown increasingly frustrated with the Pelicans for the number of hoops they required him to jump through to return from the knee injury he suffered in the preseason,” Clark wrote. “The team initially provided a return-to-play timetable of six to eight weeks, but it took more than three months for Williamson to get back on the floor. When he was finally given the thumbs up to play, he was placed on 'burst' limits, which he detested. The way Williamson’s return was handled caused significant tension between him and the team’s medical staff, sources said.”
Griffin has done everything to form a relationship with Williamson, going so far as to invite Zion for a talk and then proceeding to play the piano for him during the NBA bubble. While it's fun to think of Griffin playing the piano in a room alone with Williamson, the Pelicans exec's plan didn't seem to work — Clark added that the two don't speak frequently at this point in time (h/t Hoops Rumors).
The friction between Williamson and Griffin is a hot topic, but it's not the franchise's only worry. After two-and-a-half years in New Orleans, Griffin has already fired two head coaches — one of them (Stan Van Gundy) was someone he handpicked — and hasn't been able to find the winning pieces to surround Williamson.
If Griffin can build a winner in New Orleans that can seriously compete in the loaded Western Conference, it could affect his star forward's current reported state of mind, but things aren't looking great as they currently stand.