Zion Williamson Reiterates Commitment to Pelicans: 'I Do Want to Be Here'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 11, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans smiles before Round 1 Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Zion Williamson insisted Saturday that he wants to remain with the New Orleans Pelicans.

According to ESPN's Andrew Lopez, Williamson said the following while speaking at a YMCA youth and basketball camp registration in New Orleans: "I do want to be here. That's no secret. I feel like I've stood on that when I spoke. Currently, this does not really have anything to do with that. This is just me wanting to be a pillar in my community."

Williamson, who missed the entire 2021-22 season because of a foot injury, could be in line for a huge contract extension this summer, as he can become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2022-23 campaign.

Lopez noted that Williamson may receive a five-year, $186 million max rookie extension offer, although it is possible the Pelicans would stop short of making it fully guaranteed due to Zion's injury history.

In addition to missing all 82 regular-season games and the Pels' first-round playoff series this season, Williamson was limited to 24 games as a rookie. He did play in 61 of the Pelicans' 72 games last season, however.

When healthy, Williamson is a force, as evidenced by the 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game he averaged in 2020-21 en route to an All-Star selection.

Even without the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, the Pelicans reached the playoffs this season, which has Williamson and others around the team excited about the future.

Last month, Williamson was cleared to return to action without limitations after a lengthy rehab process, meaning he should be good to go for the start of the 2022-23 season.

While there has been some speculation about Williamson not being fully committed to the Pelicans over the past year, he erased those doubts in April when he said he would sign an extension with the Pelicans and "couldn't sign it fast enough."

The Pelicans have an exciting core in place aside from Williamson in Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the latter of whom was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers before this season's deadline.

Williamson hasn't had a chance to play alongside McCollum, but the outside shooting ability of McCollum and Ingram should pair well with Zion's interior presence.

There are some obvious risks that would come with signing Williamson to an extension, but the potential rewards would likely be worth it given what he has shown he can do.