'I can't lie': Zion Willamson's New York praise prompts speculation

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson's enthusiasm for playing at Madison Square Garden in New York didn't go unnoticed by NBA fans. Picture: Twitter/ Kazeem Famuyide
New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson's enthusiasm for playing at Madison Square Garden in New York didn't go unnoticed by NBA fans. Picture: Twitter/ Kazeem Famuyide

Zion Williamson has barely played two seasons in New Orleans, but the number one draft pick from 2020 has already prompted speculation he might be looking for the door.

There were high hopes for the Pelicans heading into the season, with a fully fit Williamson tipped to help lead the ailing franchise back into playoff contention.

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Alongside the improving Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who were acquired in the team's mega-deal with the Los Angeles Lakers which saw them part ways with Anthony Davis.

But the 2020/21 season has been a disappointment for the Pelicans who, despite strong performances from Williamson and Ingram, failed to keep pace in the highly competitive Western Conference.

The Pelicans are 11th in the standings with a 25-32 record.

They lost three in a row thanks to their overtime defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, but it was Williamson's enthusiasm about playing in the city that caught the attention of NBA diehards.

"I mean, New York is the mecca of basketball," Williamson said with a beaming smile on his face. 

"I love playing here. I played here in college. This is my first time playing in the pros. 

"I mean, this atmosphere — whether they're cheering for you, whether they're booing for you, it's amazing.

"Honestly, I think, outside of New Orleans obviously, I think this might be my favourite place to play. Outside of New Orleans. I can't even lie to you. I can't lie to you."

The Pelicans will be determined to hold on to Williamson, their franchise centrepiece, at all costs.

New Orleans drafted Zion Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
New Orleans drafted Zion Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The team, which joined the NBA as the New Orleans Hornets in 2002, knows plenty about watching NBA superstars leave.

After drafting superstar point guard Chris Paul in 2004, he forced a trade to the LA Clippers in 2011, before the team drafted Anthony Davis first overall in 2012 - but just seven seasons later, Davis won his first NBA title in his first season after being dealt to the Lakers.

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Durant injury a concern to beaten Nets

Kevin Durant's thigh is the latest injury concern for the Brooklyn Nets, who are among the favourites to win the NBA title this season.

Durant was forced to leave Sunday's game in Miami early in the first quarter with a bruised left thigh.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said it will likely be Monday at the earliest before the team knows whether it will keep the two-time NBA Finals MVP out of more games.

"He's sore," Nash said.

"But we don't know how severe.

"We'll see tomorrow how he wakes up and go from there."

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant left in the first quarter of their loss to Miami after an apparent leg injury. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant left in the first quarter of their loss to Miami after an apparent leg injury. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Heat won the game 109-107, on a buzzer-beating jumper by Bam Adebayo.

Durant exited with 7:57 minutes to go in the opening quarter, scoring Brooklyn's first eight points of the game before coming out.

He has missed 33 games this season, 24 of those related to a left hamstring injury, six in accordance with the league's health and safety protocols related to the coronavirus and three more for injury management.

"The timing of everything this season, this year, it's just a tell-tale sign of what life is right now in terms of the uncertainty of a lot going on," Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving said.

"Anything can happen at any moment. ... We just pray that it's not too serious and he's able to recover."

With AAP

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