Zion Williamson’s missing season through injury and the unusual absence of the New Orleans Pelicans during his recovery didn’t stop the club from betting big on their long-term future together.
The star front Saturday agreed a five-year, $193 million extension with New Orleans that has a potential value of as much as $231 million, Williamson’s agent, Austin Brown, told the Associated Press.
Classified as a maximum rookie extension under the NBA employment agreement, the deal sets the stage for a high-scoring 6-foot-6-inch, 280-lb power forward to provide an All-Star caliber boost to a squad that has recently proven able to make the playoffs without him.
ESPN first reported on the deal, also citing information provided by Brown, who is co-director of CAA Sports’ basketball division. The Pelicans have not announced an extension, which according to NBA rules cannot be signed until July 6.
The move signals a desire by Duke’s 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick to see how much his return can help a squad that improved dramatically late last season and put on a highly competitive playoff show.
It’s also a show of confidence by the Pelicans in the injury-stricken Williamson, who has played a total of 85 games in his first three NBA seasons – and missed all of last season with a foot injury.
This spring, the Pelicans won two Western Conference play-in games before beating top seed Phoenix to six games in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. They did so with a squad led by tall winger Brandon Ingram, veteran guard CJ McCollum, midfielder Jonas Valanciunas and players Supporter of young players who thrived under first-time NBA head coach Willie Green.
The previous season, Williamson had averaged 27 points and was the first-ever All-Star during the only NBA campaign not to have been largely or entirely lost through injury.
Williamson played just 24 games as a rookie due to a pre-season right knee (lateral meniscus) injury.
He played in 61 of 72 games in his second season. But he injured his leg during the 2021 offseason while doing basketball practice with his stepfather, with whom he had previously entrusted his offseason training.
The Pelicans did not reveal his injury until the first day of training camp in September, saying they hoped he would be ready to play at the regular season opener on October 20. Williamson initially agreed with that timeline, which proved to be very optimistic. He ended up missing the entire regular season and playoffs.
Williamson also chose to spend most of the season away from New Orleans and the Pelicans. He chose to rehab in Oregon, where his shoe sponsor, Nike, is based.
During that time, the Pelicans offered several updates on Williamson, whose later mention was conspicuously absent from Pelicans promotional material regarding season ticket renewals for the 2022–23 season.
No NBA player has turned down the maximum extension of their NBA rookie contract, although the awkwardness between Williamson and the Pelicans has led to speculation that Williamson might be the first.
But Williamson rejoined the team in March and has appeared emotional in the playoff run, routinely involved in celebrating winning moments near the bench.
And as the season ended, Williamson said if New Orleans offered the maximum extension, he “wasn’t going to be able to sign it fast enough”.
“There is a different feeling this year. You see it on the pitch,” said Williamson, who had a different coach in each of his first three seasons in the NBA. “We have a special group. I really believe that.”
In late May, a few weeks after the Pelicans season ended, the club announced that Williamson had been allowed to engage in basketball activity without restrictions.
With Williamson and Green out as rookie head coaches, the Pelicans started 1-12 last season. But they continue to climb into the fight for a post-season Western Conference spot.
They started to improve even before acquiring McCollum from Portland two days before the NBA’s trading deadline. McCollum helped them put together for a ninth seed overall and home play-in.
The Pelicans beat 10th seed San Antonio. They then won their second play-in game over the Clippers in Los Angeles to advance to the first round of the playoffs against top seed Phoenix.
New Orleans won twice in that series, drawing two games apiece before the Suns closed it out with back-to-back wins.
Pelicans’ Zion Williamson signs up to $231 million rookie extension, agent says | New Orleans Pelicans
Source link Pelicans’ Zion Williamson signs up to $231 million rookie extension, agent says | New Orleans Pelicans