The New Orleans Pelicans flew under the radar during the NBA All-Star break. Rookie Jordan Hawkins was the franchise's lone representative, and that came in the undercard Rising Stars game not the main attraction. Well, on the court that is. CJ McCollum was a guest on ESPN's NBA Today show and had to make a few things clear to Kendrick Perkins.

Perkins was again questioning the professionalism of Zion Williamson. McCollum admitted any question about Williamson's commitment to winning would have been tough to answer in years past. Those uncertainties no longer linger around this Pelicans' locker room though.

“I think in past years I would not have been sure how to answer that on national television but I think I can say with absolute certainty that his actions have demonstrated that he cares,” explained McCollum. “His actions. The work. The consistency. I asked him what he was doing during the break,”(Williamson) said, ‘I got treatment in the morning. I have a lift with my stepfather. I have some on-court work and then I got my tee time scheduled.”

Williamson is not just rolling with the flow anymore. The two-time NBA All-Star can reel off a daily routine filled with healthy habits with ease. There are no blocks of time devoted to distractions, no days without purpose. Not anymore, and the Pelicans stand to benefit this spring.

“You're talking about a guy that is locked in and understanding that you get your work in first,” McCollum continued. “You figure out what is your version of healthy, happy play. For him it's golf. It's his way to get away but I'm excited about seeing what everybody does.”

‘Everybody Else'  starts with Brandon Ingram and McCollum. The Big Three must be firing on all cylinders going into the postseason. McCollum is not worried.

“B.I., this is a guy who has been great throughout the year. We saw what he did in the playoffs two years ago when we got in there,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I'm here. I'm going to do what I do. I think our team is built to succeed and I'm excited to see what happens going forward.”

The supporting cast is starting to catch fire at the right time as well.

“Trey (Murphy) is getting into a rhythm,” noted McCollum. “(Jonas Valanciunas) is always available. Herb (Jones) is shooting over 40% from three in his last 70 career games. He's shooting like 50% since December 1.”

McCollum ended the segment with a shout-out to Naji Marshall and well wishes for the injured Dyson Daniels. There is no fixing a broken record, however. It's just noise that need not be played often, if at all, in the Pelicans locker room.

McCollum defends his Pelicans 

Feb 10, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard CJ McCollum (3) walks back to the court after a timeout against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Hard not to notice that Perkins just cannot help it when comes to New Orleans basketball though. He ridiculed the team when suiting up for the franchise and has had an axe to grind ever since.  The ESPN personality has disparaged the franchise and individual players since turning to a media career regardless of who was running the team. Perkins even picked a fight on Twitter Spaces, was quickly proven wrong with a rundown of easily accessible facts, and then scurried away.

Perkins left a note of apology and a pinky promise to donate to a local charity. The local NBC outlet WDSU explained the background story, which gave the incident new life. Fans on social media still hound the former player for a receipt but there has been no confirmation Perkins ever followed through with the pledge.

McCollum is focused on the present. The old days are just that, the old days. The Pelicans have fresh legs and a great opportunity to make a postseason run. Former players running with nonsense narratives cannot be controlled. This Zion Williamson-led squad is concentrating on the upcoming schedule in pursuit of a top-six seed.

“We talked about five games in seven days that we have. Coming out with a back-to-back. Then we have a gap of six games in about 14 or 15 days, shout out to the schedule gods,” McCollum said. “We're excited about that.”

These Pelicans securing a spot above the NBA Play-In Tournament line would allow for another well-appreciated break. Maybe then perhaps Perkins will judge the current team on their merits instead of constantly churning up clickbait because of his experiences in the city.

CJ McCollum could not have been more clear with the reasons why that would be the professional approach if Perkins is interested in such a thing.