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Zion Williamson trade drama is what’s wrong with player empowerment era

The latest bombshell to drop surrounding a disgruntled NBA star just struck the New Orleans Pelicans. Their generational superstar Zion Williamson may not have asked out just yet, but based on the rumors, voices around him are starting to get louder about calling out the team’s dysfunction.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Joe Vardon, and William Guillory reported on the worsening situation between Zion Williamson’s camp and the Pelicans franchise.

Parting ways with Stan Van Gundy after just one season is not the biggest problem facing the New Orleans Pelicans. They have been unable to put together the right elements to make rising star Zion Williamson and his family happy, and multiple sources have told The Athletic that certain family members want Williamson on another team.

New Orleans had just parted ways with their coach of one year in Stan Van Gundy, who was reportedly a key source of frustration not just from Williamson, but for other key players such as Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Zion Williamson’s family members apparently also were growing tired of SVG.

Williamson family members voiced displeasure with the organization. Among the targets of their criticism was Van Gundy, who they felt was too rigid and demanding as head coach, but also with the organization, which they claim did not live up to what they felt should be the standard for a star like Williamson. Numerous opposing league executives had heard the complaints, and they were confirmed by Pelicans officials.

The Zion Williamson Trade Dilemma

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Zion Williamson, his teammates, and the aforementioned family members all have legitimate gripes about the dreary situation in New Orleans. They can definitely voice their displeasure in an attempt to galvanize the front office into action to make sure their franchise player is happy.

But if we’re being blunt, has Zion Williamson even earned the right to legitimately ask out? Yes, there’s nothing at all indicating that the incoming third year star was directly hinting at a trade demand. However, there’s a reason that reports like these reach the ears of legitimate sources like Charania. Someone clearly wants this noise out in the public, with some palpable intentions in mind, whether it be some overbearing relative or maybe a mouthpiece for Williamson himself.

It’s not unfounded for stars to brew up some trade rumors. Prior to the report on Zion Williamson, we had a ton of buzz about the unfolding situation with Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Before that, we were hearing Portland Trail Blazers icon Damian Lillard’s name floated in trade scenarios and his posts being read like tea leaves.

But Zion Williamson has barely played in one full NBA season. In his rookie year, the forward suited up in just 24 contests due to his own inability to stay healthy. That 2019-20 Pelicans squad got an All-Star season from Brandon Ingram and had Jrue Holiday playing like another while he was still on the roster. It was Williamson who was absent from the squad as they tried to chase a playoff spot.

Then the Pelicans traded away Holiday to invest in the future, with their young stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram in mind. Holiday is definitely a talented player, but the number of draft assets they were able to receive for future use was tough to pass up. While New Orleans fell short of expectations this season, that’s hardly a new phenomenon for young squads trying to find their footing.

In these 2021 NBA playoffs alone, we’re seeing a handful of teams reaping the fruits of their labor after years in the cellar. The Phoenix Suns are arguably the biggest story in the playoffs right now, and it took all of six seasons for Devin Booker to be given the supporting cast he needed to succeed. Now he could potentially be an NBA champion in a matter of weeks.

The Utah Jazz have used their draft picks from scattered seasons before finding the right pieces to build around. We all know how long #TheProcess took to form as the Philadelphia 76ers went through one of the most infamous rebuild jobs. These things take time.

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And if we’re going by generational talents, LeBron James didn’t make the postseason in his first two years either. He proved that he could carry an immense load on his broad shoulders for years before asking out during The Decision, the moment that served as the player empowerment era’s big bang. Yes, maybe asking out immediately could have led to earlier success. But LeBron James will be the first to tell you how important those early bumps in the road were.

At the end of the day, Zion Williamson and his camp could demand whatever they want. That’s the beauty of the player empowerment era. The players who sacrifice their lives for this game that we love can decide for themselves how they want to dictate their career within the bounds of league rules. But if a player who has barely played a full season starts asking out, then it might set a worrisome precedent where more and more stars express frustration prematurely and ruin a chance to create something special in exchange for instant gratification. Losing out on slow grind success stories like Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell, whose downs made their ups feel that much sweeter, can’t possibly be good for the league.