The starting center is out with right ankle soreness. Considering he’s been playing through plenty of bumps and bruises, the decision to give the dependable big man a night off before the start of postseason action is a good call. The Pelicans should be able to beat the Kings without him, and in the process, clinch a spot in the play-in tournament.
The dominant headline on the day, though, belongs to Zion Williamson, as his stepfather, Lee Anderson, gave answers to several important questions on The Jordy Culotta Show.
The entire interview is well worth your time, but let’s hit on several salient points.
- Williamson is healthy — “He’s feeling great.”
- Williamson and his family are happy in New Orleans, downplaying a fractured relationship exists with the Pelicans front office — “But for them to put Zion’s family name out there and say that we’re not happy in New Orleans, that is false information.”
- Williamson and his family are happy with the head coaching hire — “They smacked a walk-off home run. They did an amazing job. Willie Green has come in and righted the ship.”
- Williamson and his family are happy with the construction of the roster — “We love the pickups that the Pelicans have made the last month or so. We’re ecstatic about that. We think that with the acquisitions that they have made, with Zion being on the mend 110 percent, we think the future is very bright in New Orleans right now. Very bright.”
As for the big question at the forefront of all minds — Will Zion play this season? — Anderson expressed optimism to Culotta.
“I expect him to play. Certainly I do. If you were to ask Zion, I’m sure he would probably say the same thing. But with just a couple of games left, with the magnitude of what’s going on right now in the city of New Orleans and the opportunity to qualify for the play-in game and then possibly get into a seven-game series, that would be off the charts in the city of New Orleans — plus with the way the season started.”
Anderson immediately went on to add that this is his own personal belief, “that’s purely me,” but he later seemed to double down on the opinion by hinting that Williamson should appear in the play-in tournament/playoffs to make the Pelicans whole for their postseason run.
“The play-in game will give us additional experience,” Anderson said. “I think if all the pieces are in place, even for the play-in, go ahead and lock that in and get that taken care of and win what we’re supposed to win — with everybody included, I’m just saying everybody because I think if everybody, everybody is included — I think we are a dangerous team.
“I was telling my wife just yesterday, even in eighth place and we’d have to face Phoenix in the opening round, listen, I would love that opportunity to go against Phoenix to see how the full team, the complete team, would react to being in the playoffs. I would love to see that. If I had any money, I’m putting it on the Pelicans.”
What should we make of this? Well, Williamson hasn’t officially been cleared for 5-on-5 action in practices yet and Green offered no ground-breaking update in pregame; however, he has been ramping up his level of activity in recent weeks and is currently accompanying the Pelicans on the four-game road trip.
Somewhat far-fetched, there’s a world that I can envision where Williamson plays in the final home game of the regular season against the Golden State Warriors — if the seeding in the play-in tournament is set.
Outside of that scenario, though, the next best chance would probably have to wait until the first round of the playoffs. There would be some additional time for preparation. A seven-game series would allow for adjustments to be made and chemistry to grow on the fly.
But having Williamson’s first game — if he’s checked all the boxes from a health standpoint with the Pelicans — come in any contest that carries serious consequences, say of still needing to secure the ninth seed or win a play-in game, feels too great of a burden to place on all parties involved.
For more on tonight’s matchup, please give our preview a read.
When: April 5, 2022, 9:00 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM