More HoopsHype Rumors
Before Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin addressed reporters last Thursday, word was already circling around the league that Williamson was unlikely to make his 2021-22 debut before November, at the earliest. It was even known in rival front offices that Griffin planned to speak on the matter rather than issue a press release. This all comes after league figures raised a collective eyebrow when Griffin blamed Williamson’s season-ending finger injury on poor officiating.
Storyline: Zion Williamson Injury
Tatum’s post-COVID-19 recovery ramp-up saw him turn into one of the league’s top free-throw machines, drawing 7.6 a night in the final 18 games of the regular season. It started with his 53-point explosion against Minnesota on April 9, which seemed to be his springboard to the next level of his game. That would have ranked him seventh in the league for the season, right between fellow Hanlen client Bradley Beal and James Harden. He was averaging just 4.4 free throw attempts per game up to that point but kept it going in the playoffs with four double-digit free-throw attempt nights in six games (including the Play-In Tournament game against Beal’s Wizards) and going 62 of 66 overall in those games.
Hanlen said the new coaching staff has done a good job talking to Tatum before the season about where he feels most comfortable and what new roles he can take on. So much of their preseason offense was him finding different approaches to lure in double teams and experimenting with varying ways to get the ball out to find an open shooter. “Teams can double-team him on the post. We can obviously play him on the perimeter, play him in pick-and-rolls, play him on the elbows, areas that are hard for him to be double-teamed,” Udoka said. “The other part was the playmaking. He’s welcomed that. He understands the attention he draws so he’s been great in practice and games really picking the gym apart.”
It was then that Hubbard learned Unseld’s superpower was neither offense nor defense. It was people. “We were trying to sell the players on structure, a lot of structure,” Hubbard said. “I think some players don’t want that; they want free flowing, just go. But Wes understood that you need both — he understood that, Gilbert [Arenas]? He was a free flower. And Brendan Haywood probably needed the structure. And in that context of understanding the players and understanding their strengths and how you could make them successful, he got them to work on their weaknesses. He was real good at the developing side.”
Unseld received no questions about his father that morning in front of the largest media contingent he had faced since his hiring in July. Nothing about upholding his family legacy nor his full-circle career path, which began with a college internship with the Wizards that became a full-time job in 1997. To the lone query about bringing his team back to Baltimore, Unseld gave a quick smile. “It was good. It’s always a great opportunity to get home. I give our guys a lot of credit: After a 1-hour 10-minute bus ride, we still got something out of it,” he said. “That’s kind of our thought process with anything and everything we do. … These are enjoyable things — you get an opportunity to reach out to the community, give back to some degree. But, again, it’s a workday.”