The New Orleans Pelicans held an impromptu press conference today and David Griffin, the vice president of basketball operations, announced to media via a Zoom call that the seasons of Zion Williamson (fractured left ring finger) and Brandon Ingram (left ankle inversion sprain) are in jeopardy.
The tone of Griffin’s message, though, was one unmistakably seated in deep frustration with NBA referees. He believes Zion would have had a much higher chance of finishing this campaign had he simply been officiated more correctly to this point in time.
“I’m really frustrated because this was avoidable,” Griffin said. “We told the NBA through every means available to us, through sending in film, through speaking to everybody in the officials department, everybody in basketball operations, that the way they were officiating Zion was going to get him injured. And quite frankly, he’s injured now because of the open season on Zion Williamson in the paint. He has been absolutely mauled in the paint on a regular basis, to the point other players have said to him, ‘I’m going to keep doing this to you because they don’t call it.’ So, there’s more violence encouraged in the paint against Zion Williamson than any other player I’ve seen since Shaq. It was egregious and horrific then and the same is true now.”
“Brandon Ingram continues to work his way back from a left ankle inversion sprain that he suffered in the second Warriors game,” Griffin said. “That injury is going to sideline him indefinitely.”
Zion appeared to have fractured his finger on the following play against the Golden State Warriors in the Pelicans’ 108-103 victory.
Play Zion Williamson fractured his left ring finger Tuesday vs Warriors. pic.twitter.com/eJOMNwfk00— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) May 7, 2021
Interestingly, Zion had already been playing through an injury on his other hand.
“Zion has been playing with an injury to his other hand that every other player I’ve been associated with would have had surgery already and shut themselves down,” Griffin said. “And what reward he got for that was injuring the other hand in a way that didn’t need to happen at all. In order for him to even bring it to our attention, it would have taken something akin to getting hit by a truck. For him to bring it to our attention, I’m grateful that we found it and we could avoid any serious injury.”
Griffin wishes that the New Orleans Pelicans franchise and the NBA could have found common ground, saying he was disappointed “in us, quite frankly. That we weren’t able to bring the appropriate sense of urgency to the league conversation around the way he was officiated.”
Part of the reason for today’s strongly worded message by Griffin was due to the fact that Zion and B.I. have never engaged in any excessive flopping or made heated complaints to referees about the lack of whistles.
“Zion does not have a technical foul all year,” Griffin said. “He was doing exactly what he was taught to do in terms of honoring the league’s rules around decorum. He was respectful to officials. He was having conversations with officials using the language that the head of officiating told him to use. Brandon Ingram has met with the same director of officiating and had the same conversation. And Brandon continued not to get calls.
“People will tell you that it’s a youth thing. They will tell you that’s it’s a reputation thing. It’s asinine, is what it is. When kids are getting attacked in the way they are — and in particular Zion was, this type of thing is going to happen. I feel to some degree there is an ‘I told you so’ element of what I’m saying to you right now. But yeah, you’re right, if you flop, you tend to get more calls.”
Without their two leading scorers for perhaps the rest of this regular season, it’s more difficult than ever to envision the New Orleans Pelicans of finding a way to climb inside the top 10 in the West and keep playing once the regular campaign concludes.