I've been a fan of the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans for 30 years. For most of those years the roster was created with money in mind. Very often they put out a competitive product but never reached the Western Finals because the extra money wasn't spent. It has been especially hard the last dozen years as I've seen two First Ballot Hall of Famers (Chris Paul and Anthony Davis) come and go without ever seeing the Western conference finals. The last 5 years new ownership was willing to spend the money but the management team devalued the importance of developing draft picks and emphasizing defensive concepts.
The 2019 draft blessed the team with Zion Williamson, one of the most dynamic talents the game has ever seen. Unfortunately his first two years have been marred by awful team defense, and a team inability to close out games. No playoffs hinders the advancement of the Zion brand. A brand that Zion's management team knows can be a worldwide commodity if he landed in a larger city. To no surprise, Zion praised the New York area when he played ball in N.Y.C. towards seasons end. There is not a team in the NBA that wouldn't enjoy having him. He energizes fan bases and can make a team better with his talent. Zion has a decision to make. He is eligible for a max extension at the end of the 2021-2022 season. But rumors have started he many decline. The Pelicans need to buy time. They need to put together a competitive team and build a base of people around him that makes him feel so comfortable he may not want to leave, or at the very least delay his decision.
When I watched the Pelicans play the Sacramento Kings Pelicans this season I noticed something extraordinary. The Pelicans lined up to hug their former coach, Alvin Gentry at games end. Gentry's teams were gifted offensively but woefully deficient in the art of defending. His termination was justified but apparently his former team enjoyed playing for him. These are the type of relationships that keep people not wanting to leave. Ensuring that Zion is happy is of utmost importance. The salary will always be there, the heart will be the thing that guides him.
I watched every Pelican game on television this year. When Zion needed encouragement or Zion was out of defensive position and needed to be reprimanded he always seemed to gravitate towards Teresa Witherspoon. The Pelican announcers always spoke about their close relationship and how he respects her. Witherspoon is one of the greatest women basketball players ever. She is a winner on the collegiate level and professional level. She understands the importance of defense. Her only deficiency is that she has never coached on the professional level. Actually no woman has ever coached on the men's professional level. But that can be somewhat remedied by having veteran coaches alongside her on the bench.
What we forget is Zion is a 21 year old on a very young team. Continuity and familiarity is essential if this team has any chance of being a future contender or at the very least the home of Zion Williamson for at least 4 more years. Teresa Witherspoon brings toughness, an all star pedigree and a knowledge of the roster. She may not be the conventional choice but she is ideal for a team that needs to win and win now.
Otherwise I may be saying I had the opportunity to have a First Ballot Hall of Famer on my favorite team depart for a third time.