Ryan Pannone

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Lewis, Luxury Tax, Coaching Changes

Appearing on The Hoop Collective (video link), Brian Windhorst’s podcast, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez said Pelicans star Zion Williamson is “ready to go” for the 2022/23 season. Williamson, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery and subsequently experiencing setbacks from a broken foot, has been working out with his trainer as opposed to the team’s staff since he was cleared to play with no restrictions at the end of May, Lopez added.

He is now working with Jasper Bibbs, his strength and conditioning coach, he has a chef, he has taken steps to improve his body so we don’t have a situation where he is only playing 85 games in a three-year stretch, or missing an entire season,” Lopez said.

In an interview last week with William Guillory of The Athletic, Bibbs said Williamson was in “fantastic shape” and “a better athlete now than he’s ever been.” The former No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year, maximum-salary extension in July, and will reportedly be required to undergo regular weigh-ins throughout the duration of his new contract due to a conditioning clause.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Speaking at Media Day on Monday, general manager Trajan Langdon said guard Kira Lewis Jr. is not ready for five-on-five yet action yet, according to Lopez (Twitter link), who notes that Lewis tore his ACL last December. The recovery period for a torn ACL is typically 12-plus months, so it might be a while until we see the 21-year-old former lottery pick back in action.
  • When asked about paying the luxury tax, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said that ownership was willing to commit when appropriate. “When it’s time to really go all-in on something, we will,” Griffin said (Twitter link via Christian Clark of NOLA.com). New Orleans is currently about $3.5MM under the $150,267,000 luxury tax line for ’22/23.
  • The Pelicans announced a series of front office and coaching promotions and additions in a press release. Sammy Gelfand is the team’s new senior director of basketball analytics. Ryan Pannone, formerly the head coach of the Birmingham Squadron, the Pelicans’ G League affiliate, is now an assistant coach. Jordan Kincaide has also been added as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Ryan Frazier has been promoted to assistant coach; Both Corey Brewer and Darnell Lazare have been promoted to assistant coach/player development coach; Brandon Demas has been elevated to two-way coach; Jordan McGuire and D’Or Fischer have been elevated to player development assistant, with McGuire also serving as an assistant shooting coach.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Meeks, Kidd, Brunson, Wood

The Birmingham Squadron, the Pelicans’ NBA G League affiliate, has named T.J. Saint as its head coach and Billy Campbell as GM of Basketball Operations, according to a team press release. Recently retired guard Jodie Meeks will be an assistant coach on Saint’s staff.

Saint was the associate head coach for the Pelicans’ G League team from 2020-22. Campbell was the assistant GM for the team’s inaugural year in Birmingham last season. Meeks, who had a 10-year NBA career, announced his retirement earlier this month.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Former Squadron head coach Ryan Pannone has been promoted by the Pelicans to an assistant coaching position on the NBA team, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Former Squadron GM Marc Chasanoff will remain in a front office role with the Pelicans. The NBA team will play its preseason finale against the Hawks at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune.
  • It may not make Mavericks owner Mark Cuban happy but head coach Jason Kidd is pleased that Jalen Brunson got a huge payday in free agency, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Kidd make that comment on the “All the Smoke” podcast. “The biggest thing is I’m happy he got paid,’’ Kidd said. “He helped us. I know Cuban doesn’t like this, but I love when I can get a player get paid.’’ Brunson signed a four-year, $104MM contract with the Knicks.
  • Christian Wood will need to spend a lot of time in the low block and be a physical presence at both ends of the court, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com writes. While Wood’s 3-point shooting is a big part of his skill set, the Mavericks will also need him to be a presence in the paint. They essentially used the trade for Wood with Houston as their main free agent addition, Sefko adds.