A potential rookie scale extension for Zion Williamson will be one of the major stories of the offseason, and the Pelicans‘ talented but often-injured power forward repeated his desire today to stay in New Orleans, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
“I do want to be here. That’s no secret. I feel like I’ve stood on that when I spoke,” Williamson said at a registration event for his youth basketball camp.
He will be eligible for a five-year extension this summer that could be worth up to $186MM, but a recent report indicated the Pelicans are reluctant to guarantee that much given his injury history. The team may try to include protections in the contract, basing a portion of Williamson’s guaranteed money on the number of games he’s able to play.
Williamson is fully healthy for the first time in nearly a year after missing the entire season following surgery on his right foot. Late last month, he was cleared to go through offseason workouts without restrictions. He has been playing in New Orleans alongside several of his teammates and is eager to put the past few months behind him.
“It was a long year for me for rehab and mental battles,” he said. “I’m fine now. I’m ready to get to work.”
Williamson was pegged as a future star when the Pelicans selected him with the top pick in the 2019 draft. However, a meniscus tear in the preseason forced him to miss the first 44 games of his rookie campaign and he played just 24 games overall. He got into 61 games during his second season, bringing him to his current total of 85. The 21-year-old has been exceptional when he has been on the court, averaging 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game and displaying unique ball-handling and passing skills.
Williamson chose to deflect questions about the extension today, telling reporters, “You have to ask the Pels, baby.”
He was more talkative when asked about the playoffs, as the Pelicans qualified this season for the first time since he joined the team. New Orleans made its way through the play-in tournament and provided a spirited challenge to the Suns before bowing in six games. Williamson said the experience motivated him.
“Pels in the first round. That’s all I needed to see to really be excited to get back out there,” he said. “It was exciting to see young players. Jose [Alvarado], Trey [Murphy III], Herb [Jones], Jaxson [Hayes]. Just blossoming into players I knew they could be and they knew they could be. Then watching [Brandon Ingram]. The name speaks for itself. Then CJ [McCollum] being added, it was something to watch. The fans made it so much better.”