We often complicate various aspects of decision-making with athletes. By doing this, we create tendencies that eliminate the simplistic human elements we live by every day. Once the New Orleans Pelicans landed the number one pick in this past Tuesday’s draft lottery, far too many complicated things with lazy and tired narratives about why Zion Williamson wouldn’t and shouldn’t fit in New Orleans.
And when they were wrong, they were WRONG!
"I'm not going to New Orleans if I'm Zion. Nope... This kid has got 9 years of peak talent. He's trained his whole life for this. He gets an opinion too. Elway got one, Eli got one, Lindros got one. He doesn't get one?" — @ColinCowherd pic.twitter.com/Zq1AJ10yM9— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 15, 2019
Absent the lucky few, small markets are typically portrayed unfairly by the national media. The allure of most TV and radio shows that receive national coverage revolves around their ability to cover the larger and most popular markets on a non-stop basis. Some pundits are more informed than others, the rest fall into dangerous and ignorant stereotypes — or just need to do more research.
Damon Jones and Stephen A actually corrected him but damn Max. This can’t be your opening statement and SO emphatic without doing a minute of research on Aaron Nelson being hired. pic.twitter.com/XQ24GnJdgF— Chris Conner (@Impatientbull) May 15, 2019
Damnit Max, all you had to do was hit refresh on the Pelicans’ Wikipedia page.
Forget Aaron Nelson for a minute. Let’s also ignore the Pelicans most recent hire in Trajan Langdon. With David Griffin alone, Zion would be in good hands. And if he wasn’t, what 285-pound, 18-year-old is going to say no to New Orleans and the local food anyway?
If Griffin’s tactics ever fail or become stale, all he’ll have to do is remember the time LeBron James said...well, anything, and he’ll have most people’s attention in New Orleans right? Like Cowherd said, New Orleans is a football town, but that doesn’t mean the ratings are not there for basketball.
#Warriors vs. #Blazers Game 2 peaked with a 6.9 metered market rating on ESPN from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET. The top five local markets for Game 2:#SanFran / #Oakland (20.7) #Portland (20.5)#Sacramento (12.0) #NOLA (8.1)#Atlanta (7.4)— Ben Cafardo (@Ben_ESPN) May 17, 2019
Game 3 Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. https://t.co/bnjeHL6w0u
It seems much more complicated than just a city being more interested in one sport over the other. The Pelicans franchise (Hornets at the time) arrived in 2002, but can anyone expect that is enough time to change the minds of many who suffered for years with brown paper bags over their heads before they received a winner?
When discussing the affection for basketball in New Orleans or assumed lack thereof, it’s much deeper than first meets the eye. Pelicans fans have seen the empire that their sports relative has been able to build in the New Orleans Saints.
Saints players feel like family from day one as they roam through the community freely, communicate with fans and create relationships as if they’re from the city. And as fun and welcoming as the Big Easy is, it’s one of the most humble towns you’ll ever experience.
anyone who can see the way alvin kamara lives should not be sad about the prospect of being a beloved young star in new orleans— Natalie Weiner (@natalieweiner) May 15, 2019
The Pelicans/Hornets have had their share of players embrace the city, but simply not consistently like the Saints. And while people within the organization have lauded for the attention of their predecessor, a lack of unique marketing and recognition of what would draw unconditional fanfare had been ignored for too long.
We’ve lived or witnessed role model structures attached to each other throughout life. The “little sibling, big sibling” dynamic is one which should immediately come to mind. It can either be one of resentment and jealousy, or admiration and respect. We’ll focus on the latter for our comparison.
While the older sibling grows and looks to carve out a journey on their own, the younger sibling latches on to whatever is left behind, hoping to measure up to their loved one. From hand-me-down clothes to old toys, the younger sibling ventures to emulate their role model in any form possible. Then comes the day where he or she realizes they must become their own individual to prosper, and that mimicking success falls flat without a separate and unique identity. Soon the shared clothes, phrases, and goals are abandoned and the true maturation begins.
The Pelicans were that younger sibling for so long in New Orleans, but they too realized it was time for a change, even if a crisis caused their epiphany. Gayle Benson promised that things were truly going to be different to all loyal fans, future employees and supporters.
Gayle Benson also reiterated that Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will focus exclusively on the Saints going forward. The new Pelicans GM will oversee basketball operations and report directly to Benson.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) March 25, 2019
Change soon arrived in the form of David Griffin. Then Aaron Nelson. No longer were medical staffs to be shared or botched; no longer would there be one or two basketball minds in a front office at a time. Griffin has seen what successful structures and hierarchy look like in previous stops, and for him to tackle the New Orleans job, all he needed was the freedom to build the necessary foundation.
Gayle Benson obliged.
Here’s that Trajan Langdon plug we all longed for from the start.
Oh and the Pelicans organization is not done either!
Further reason for hope: “Gentry revealed that Griffin & Aaron Nelson, the Pelicans new Vice President of Player Care and Performance, submitted a plan to upgrade the teams facilities. The renovations, Gentry said, cost around $800,000. Benson rubber stamped it.” https://t.co/rB7eCAX15V— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) May 17, 2019
For so long the Pelicans were an afterthought when it came to sports in New Orleans, even with top-five talented players in tow over the years. They were a part of a very undesirable group of NBA teams that had a track record of poor organizational tendencies compiled with a small market not fit to attract stars. Without sustained success that is.
In short order though, New Orleans has a revamped front office, the keys to the top basketball phenom since LeBron James, a legit two-way star in Jrue Holiday, and the biggest trading asset chip in basketball — Anthony Davis.
There’s the chance that asset could lead Williamson to teaming up with his best friend and college teammate in RJ Barrett from Duke. Maybe a path is found that brings in Ja Morant. Or there could be a third curtain, leading to a young veteran like Jayson Tatum.
Some questioned Zion Williamson’s reaction to being in New Orleans which separate videos, reports and his step-dad swiftly put to rest.
Here's Zion's reaction when the Pelicans won the No. 1 pick pic.twitter.com/RdPCL1eJ59— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2019
Sources: Zion Williamson met in Chicago with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, the top two teams in the Draft lottery. Williamson had a positive meeting with New Orleans and prior to lottery, he cited Pelicans as a targeted team to start career.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 16, 2019
“There has been a lot of speculation but that is not something we have even considered.”— OFF THE BENCH (@OTB_ESPN) May 16, 2019
Hear the full interview with @ZionW32’s stepfather Lee Anderson talking about Zion to the @PelicansNBA:
Now, one should raise an eyebrow if Zion isn’t ready to do a backflip once his name is called out first on June 20th. Tim Duncan was once gifted to an already talented San Antonio Spurs team back in 1997. While it wasn’t perfect from the start, a dynasty was soon built, and the ripples of that one faithful night are still being felt in the NBA today, some 22 years later, both on and off the floor.
There’s an argument Zion is now walking into a situation that only Duncan’s arrival can compare to — with or without Anthony Davis.
Most number one overall picks waltz into environments that are dependent on their talents and shoulders for immediate success. Several pieces are placed to grow around the hopeful superstar as time advances, along with future expectations.
But New Orleans’ situation now boasts an experienced front office that will be able to take pressure off their prized acquisition early in his career. It should eliminate some of the stress that comes with relocating to a rebuilding franchise. Hell, by the first game of the regular season the Pelicans may not even resemble anything close to a rebuild, which is a unique opportunity for any incoming, highly touted rookie.
The Pelicans have the ability to provide Williamson with a genesis that many of his peers probably snickered at first but will likely soon envy. Not New York, Chicago, or L.A. but New Orleans!
What a difference three months can make — the team that had so little to be positive about now has a wealth of juicy choices with a lot of doors likely leading to something wonderful.