Was it me or did Zion Williamson have the look of a man who was just told he was being sent to Siberia?
Tuesday night’s NBA Lottery should have been renamed the Zion Lottery. Because all anybody wanted to know was where would he wind up as he’s the most overwhelming No. 1 selection perhaps in draft history. Zion makes the rest of the NBA hopefuls look like chicken feed.
You can only imagine the angst of NBA officials. The lottery came down to NBA meccas New York and Los Angeles (Lakers), along with non-descript teams Memphis and New Orleans. The Knicks have been irrelevant since the Patrick Ewing days while the Lakers’ proud tradition has been sullied the last few years and not even LeBron James can save the tanking franchise.
Some fans may not even realize New Orleans has a team, or still think it’s called the Jazz (not since 1979) and not the Pelicans. Memphis is known for blues, not basketball.
The first shoe dropped when the Lakers were announced as the No. 4 team. Then the oxygen went out of the room and hearts dropped when the Knicks came in at No. 3, though they might get a Duke player in R.J. Barrett, hardly a bad consolation prize.
Memphis then was drawn, which left New Orleans holding the Zion lottery ticket.
Of course, Zion looked like he had been shot. In NBA terms, New Orleans is NBA purgatory. It’s home to Anthony Davis, who is trying like crazy to get traded. Home games in the past have been played before half-filled crowds. Even the most diehard of NBA fans probably can’t name three players on the Pelicans other than AD. I know I can’t.
Alvin Gentry, the one-time KU assistant to Larry Brown, is the team’s head coach. He’s been an NBA vagabond as he’s a recycled head coach, never achieving much success at any of his stops.
My first reaction was, “will Zion pull an Elway or Eli?” John Elway and Eli Manning told the Colts and Chargers, respectively, there was no way they were going to play for those teams after they were drafted. They wound up being traded and both earned two Super Bowl rings.
But New Orleans would be crazy to trade Zion. This is a once-in-a-generation talent, a super physical freak. He’s 6-7 and 280 pounds of chiseled muscle, yet has tremendous footwork and a nice set shot. In the NBA, he won’t be subject to double or triple teams. He’ll be able to power his way to the basket unbated. Would you want to get in his way on a drive to the basket? It would be like getting in the way of a runaway locomotive.
I’m sure many experts are saying this was a lose-lose outcome for the NBA. Zion in New York or LA would have been NBA gold. The NBA needs for the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics to be near the top as they were backbone for so long and their fan bases are second to none.
I’m sure Zion is worth an extra 5,000 fans a night in New Orleans. But a happy Zion is a productive Zion. I’m not sure he can be happy with “Pelicans” across the front of his jersey.