Amid persistent speculation about whether Zion Williamson is happy in New Orleans, veteran Pelicans guard CJ McCollum came to his teammate’s defense on Thursday, essentially telling reporters to back off while the former No. 1 overall pick recovers from a foot injury.
“Leave the young fella alone, man,” McCollum said, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “He’s trying to rehab in peace. Trying to get himself ready to come back. We spoke, and I’ll speak to him later this week or next and just catch up with him. He’s a very talented player. He’s going through a lot. You guys are putting him on the spot on the daily. I think he’s just trying to recover on his own time and focus on his rehab.”
McCollum pointed out on Thursday that he has dealt with multiple foot injuries in his own career, including a hairline fracture that sidelined him for a good chunk of the 2020/21 season. He said he knows what Williamson is going through during his long rehab process.
“You feel disconnected. You feel away,” McCollum said. “It’s tough mentally and physically. I know it’s frustrating.”
Here’s more on the Pelicans:
- In a separate story for NOLA.com, Clark takes a closer look at the apparent tension between Williamson and the Pelicans, revisiting some points he made in a September report and sharing some new details. According to Clark, Williamson and his camp seem to have a “lack of trust” in Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin. Clark also says that Zion’s stepfather Lee Anderson has “maintained a great deal of control” over the young forward’s career since he was drafted and that some people who knew Williamson and his family before he reached the NBA have discussed whether Anderson has Zion’s best interests at heart.
- Rod Walker of NOLA.com believes that a lack of communication, both publicly and privately, has exacerbated the divide between Williamson and the Pelicans, arguing that even a brief social media post from Zion reiterating that he wants to be in New Orleans would go a long way toward silencing the noise.
- Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart are good friends and would’ve loved the chance to play on the same team rather than being traded for one another, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. They made the most of the situation by agreeing to temporarily swap houses when Nance was dealt to New Orleans and Hart was sent to Portland.
- Nance referred to his recent knee surgery as a minor procedure and said he hopes to be back on the floor soon, according to Lopez. It has been two weeks since Nance went under the knife — reports at the time suggested it would take the forward about six weeks to recover, so he could return in a month or so.