It’s open season on Zion Williamson. The New Orleans Pelicans big man was the subject of various takedowns Friday after his team’s woeful showing in the semifinals of the In-Season Tournament to the Lakers, 133-89. J.J. Redick, Shaquille O’Neal, the Times-Picayune, and even an X account dedicated to the Pels lined up at the dunk tank.
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Shaq did his folksy “I know what greatness looks like” routine, Redick said Zion isn’t taking himself seriously, the Times-Picayune reported Williamson refuses to “listen” to directions on diet and conditioning, and @ProPelsTalk put together a damning compilation of lowlights. If you have a gripe with the young man, air it now because no one is going to defend him.
And how could you? There’s been issues with health, maturity, conditioning, you name it. The only thing he hasn’t done is show up on the police blotter, but after a few more down years, negative news cycles, and the official bust label, I’m sure we can get him to the same place Greg Oden was in circa 2014.
I want to be explicitly clear: I’m not defending Williamson (or Oden). The Duke phenom’s pro career is depressing because so many of the missteps are self-created. There was so much joy and potential only a couple of years ago, and now we’ve reached a point where I don’t even want to talk about him.
Obviously, I know why he’s a story, but maybe if we just ignore Williamson, something will click? You know that friend who has a really embarrassing screwup on their record? Whether it’s a wild arrest, mental breakdown over a relationship, or whatever, and they just can’t live it down.
It feels like Williamson has had four or five of those over the past calendar year. If he can get out of his own way, and handle these shortcomings, he’ll be fine. Maybe not a super-duper star, but a “lovable fan favorite” for sure.
However, I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be to get past something when you’re routinely sacrificed to the hot-take gods. It’s not like Williamson tried to escape accountability after the brutal loss to the Lakers. He called out his own effort, focus and defense. While my guess is those words ring pretty hollow in the locker room and among the people who cover the Pelicans, it didn’t warrant a dayslong roast.
This current version of Williamson is the same one that entered the league. His lifestyle may have cost him top-level explosiveness, yet weight issues, injuries, and a lack of discipline have unfortunately been mainstays. What else is there to critique?
Zion has never appeared in a postseason game. In four seasons as a pro, he’s only played more than 29 games once, and in that season, he didn’t make it to the end of the year either. Talking about him as a serious basketball player is like talking about time travel as a reality.
Again, sports media has to say something. I’d just rather debate what kind of cheese the moon would be if it was made of cheese, or the length of Brandon Ingram’s free pass. People keep telling me he’s capable of doing something, but that something only appears to be good stats on play-in teams.
All I’m saying is how many times can we dogpile on Zion Williamson for the same exact flaws before we’re just bitching about water being wet?
Yes! The Pistons reached 19 straight losses with a 123-91 drubbing at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Meanwhile in San Antonio, Victor Wembanyama’s 21 and 20 wasn’t enough to beat the Chicago Bulls. The 121-112 defeat was the Spurs 16th-straight L.