New Orleans Pelicans phenom Zion Williamson raised eyebrows when he talked about his love for playing at Madison Square Garden, with his comments leading to plenty of speculation about a potential desire to play for the upstart New York Knicks in the near future.
However, just because Zion said he loves playing at MSG doesn't mean he wants to force his way to the Knicks as soon as possible. Williamson is apparently embracing the challenge of turning the Pelicans into a winner.
Via Christian Clark of NOLA.com:
While Williamson is genuinely fond of Madison Square Garden, a source familiar with his thinking said he isn’t intimidated by the challenge of trying to win in a small market. Before he attended Duke, Williamson won three state championships at Spartanburg Day School, a tiny private school in South Carolina more known for its academics than its athletics.
Williamson will become eligible for a contract extension after next season. The Pelicans will offer him a max barring some kind of disaster, and there's little reason to expect him to turn it down. Sure, New Orleans was disappointing this season and has work to do to build a better team around Zion, but there's no reason to believe he wants to leave just yet.
Of course, there definitely is urgency to improve the roster around Williamson. Even if he signs that extension next offseason, a failure to better the roster could lead to him asking for a trade sooner rather than later. A player can only tolerate losing for so long, especially if it's in a smaller market.
The Pelicans finished this season with a 31-41 record. This put them in 11th place in the Western Conference and two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for that final spot in the play-in tournament. Zion did his best, averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on the season.