David Griffin: Zion Williamson Not Wanting to Join Pelicans Is 'False Narrative'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2019

Duke's Zion Williamson arrives for the NBA basketball draft lottery Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nuccio DiNuzzo)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Associated Press

David Griffin denied the New Orleans Pelicans face an imminent threat of Zion Williamson refusing to join the team were he to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

"I'm certain that's a false narrative," said Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, per Jim Eichenhofer of the team's official site.

He added the team has met with Williamson and Ja Morant and that both players are "thrilled at the concept of coming to New Orleans."

Despite only having six percent odds, the Pelicans won the draft lottery, which effectively meant winning the right to select Williamson. The Duke star is the consensus top player available.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst presented the one wrench in those plans. He noted Williamson could potentially exert what leverage he has to force his way out of New Orleans before actually joining the team:

Because he hadn't yet signed with an agent or agreed to an endorsement deal, Williamson had the option of returning to Duke for his sophomore year, the threat of which he could use to force the Pelicans to make a difficult decision.

Windhorst made it clear this was merely a hypothetical based on the NCAA's eligibility rules and not something Williamson was planning to do.

Lee Anderson, Williamson's stepfather, also downplayed the likelihood of that scenario during an interview on 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"There has been a lot of speculation, but that is not nothing that we have even considered," Anderson said (h/t USA Today's AJ Neuharth-Keusch).

Any misgivings Williamson might have had about playing in New Orleans would've made more sense a year or two ago. The franchise now appears to be headed in a positive direction.

Griffin helped assemble a championship-winning squad with the Cleveland Cavaliers and represents a clear upgrade over the previous front-office regime. Assuming they lose Anthony Davis, the Pelicans would almost assuredly have another lottery pick to pair with Williamson to accelerate their rebuild as well.

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