David Griffin Slams NBA Refs for Letting Zion Williamson Get 'Mauled,' Injured

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIMay 7, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dribbles the ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in New Orleans, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
AP Photo/Rusty Costanza

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson is out with a fractured ring finger, an injury that executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said "was avoidable." 

In response, Griffin said the team is sending video to the league showing how often Williamson has been hit under the rim, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez.

"He's injured now because of the open season there's been on him in the paint," Griffin told reporters. "He has been absolutely mauled in the paint on a regular basis."

Oleh Kosel @OlehKosel

In a media session today, David Griffin is clearly frustrated with the "open season" on Zion Williamson regarding the amount of hits he's taken this season without proper officiating. Now a fractured left ring finger has put the rest of his season in doubt.

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

Griffin: "We failed. We did not protect (Zion)."

Williamson suffered the injury during the team's win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Though he was able to return to action that night, the team announced Friday he's out indefinitely.

The 20-year-old is averaging 27 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists through 61 games this season. 

The severity of the injury on his left ring finger was discovered during a CT scan on Thursday, the team announced. Griffin said Williamson told the team about the injury prior to their departure for Philadelphia, where they tip off against the 76ers at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

Christian Clark @cclark3000

Griff: "He's injured because of the open season that there’s been on Zion Williamson in the paint. He has been absolutely mauled in the paint on a regular basis to the point where other players have said to him, ‘I’m going to keep doing this to you’ because they don’t call it.”

"There's more violence encouraged in the paint against Zion Williamson than any other player I've seen since Shaq," Griffin said (6:35 mark). "It was egregious and horrific then, and the same is true now." 

Williamson has scored 75 percent of his points in the paint, a figure that ranks 16th among NBA starters who have played at least 30 games this season, per NBA Advanced Stats

Griffin also said that Williamson has been playing through an injury on his other hand "that quite frankly, nobody else would have played through" and could have required surgery. 

"What reward he got for that was injuring the other hand in a way that didn't need to happen at all," Griffin said. 

The Pelicans, who are also playing without Brandon Ingram, entered Friday at 30-36, 1.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final Western Conference play-in spot.