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Apr 30, 2024 1:50 pm

Pelicans VP laments Zion injury timing, vows ‘urgency’ in offseason

Zion Williamson

New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin appreciates the success of a 49-win season but signaled he’s determined to shift away from the current makeup of his roster this summer.

“Whereas in the past we’ve always erred on the side of continuity, and our takeaway has been, ‘Let’s see this group healthy,’ I think we’ve seen it enough,” Griffin said at his season-ending press conference Tuesday. “We’ve had some really, really good opportunity to see Zion (Williamson) play a career high in games. I think we saw it for segments of time well enough to understand we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Pelicans reached the playoffs via the play-in tournament only to fold due to another injury to Williamson. The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is the only lottery pick from that year who hasn’t appeared in a playoff game.

This was the first season Williamson, 23, played more than 61 games, and he flashed MVP-level dominance. Williamson averaged 22.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists before he was injured in the play-in tournament with 3:19 left in a 40-point outburst against the Lakers. He called the injury “super-demoralizing.”

Griffin discussed expectations placed on Williamson at his 2023 season-ending press conference when he felt Brandon Ingram was having an All-NBA season with a dominant finish to the regular season while Williamson nursed an injury.

Griffin didn’t indicate he’d rather part with either player. But with Trey Murphy, Herb Jones and Naji Marshall in the fold as primarily wing players, the Pelicans could be in position to consider a trade from a position of strength.

“He did a remarkable job this year,” Griffin said of Williamson, while calling the timing of his latest injury “disheartening” because Williamson responded to coaches suggesting he take more pull-up jump shots. Those shots starting falling, and Williamson’s confidence went through the roof.

“I think you saw so much evolution in his game that came from the evolution (of) his body and the work he put in,” Griffin said. “We’re really excited about where Zion is and where he intends to go.”

A commitment to Williamson could mean a split with Ingram, who was acquired by New Orleans from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade in June 2019.

Ingram, 26, has averaged at least 20 points in each of his five seasons with the Pelicans.

New Orleans finished eighth in the West in 2023-24 and last finished higher in the conference standings in 2017-18 (sixth place) with 48 wins.

From the timing is everything department, Griffin lamented the Pelicans would’ve been third in the West last season with 47 wins.

However, he was clear that the Pelicans as constituted delivered a great season by their own recent standards and still landed in the play-in tournament. That’s a driving factor in Griffin’s mission to seek changes.

“Because it’s a historically good Western Conference — there’s teams that didn’t make the playoffs that are going to get radically better this offseason,” he said. “We need to do the same. I think you’ll see a real sense of urgency from all of us to do that.”

–Field Level Media

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