New Orleans Pelicans Rumors
LaVar and Lonzo had a lively argument once Lonzo suggested changing the brand’s name. That led to the following exchange: Lonzo: Would you change the name? I’m just saying from a marketing standpoint. LaVar: Hell no! I wouldn’t change the name. Because of the marketing standpoint — regardless of what it is. Lonzo: Just saying, that’s my opinion. I’m just asking a question.
LaVar grew agitated and said he wouldn’t change the name because the Triple Bs represented the three Ball brothers. LaVar then called Lonzo “damaged goods” for the past two years while trying to make the point that he wouldn’t change his son’s name based off his NBA career’s poor start. That was when Lonzo told LaVar that the brand was “demolished” — an exchange that was teased before the season aired.
LiAngelo entered the G League player pool last season and went unsigned, without a peep of interest from teams the entirety of the season. During a recent radio interview with Big Boy, Lonzo Ball gave some interesting thoughts on LiAngelo’s game and whether he could hang in the NBA. “I think he can make it. He’s 6-foot-6, he can shoot, he’s 240 pounds, so he’s strong enough to guard anybody. I mean, as long he gets healthy and works on his handle, he should be alright.”
The New Orleans Pelicans announced today the additions and changes to Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s coaching staff. Chris Finch has been named Associate Head Coach, Offense. Jeff Bzdelik (Associate Head Coach, Defense) and Jamelle McMillan (Assistant Coach) join Fred Vinson on the coaching staff. Joe Boylan has been elevated to Assistant Coach/Director of Player Development, while Michael Ruffin has been promoted to Assistant coach/Player Development.
What everyone really wants to know is how top draft pick Zion Williamson looked on the course. The answer: not bad. His swing was reasonably fluid, with a nice clean takeaway and good rotation in his hips. There’s just one problem. He’s such a mountain of a man that he snapped the club with a single swing. The head of the club was eventually found some distance away.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation. The Pelicans keep up the pace constantly, just the way I like it. I am already working with members of the technical staff and the idea of running is emphasized in each exercise. I’m sure that our offensive schemes will allow me to be lethal from the next season”
After a dozen years playing professionally in Europe, this fall the 28-year-old will perform in the same cities and arenas where his idols once starred, launching his NBA career as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s had opportunities to come to the world’s premier hoops league in the recent past, but decided this summer that the timing was ideal to fulfill a lifelong objective. “I was watching the NBA on VHS at age 5,” Nicolo Melli remembered. “(Basketball) was love at first sight. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NBA, but also for me playing 10 years in Euroleague. This summer, when (I had) certain vibes (from New Orleans pursuing him), I felt like it was the right decision. It was like the kid’s dream came back.”
On a New Orleans roster filled with young talent and offensive potential, Melli’s all-around skill set was attractive for several reasons. It may not be immediately evident on paper why an NBA franchise pursued an international veteran who averaged a modest 7.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in ’18-19, but Melli is a highly-valued glue guy. His teams win a lot of games (Fenerbahce went 28-8 last season in Euroleague).
“That’s the appeal of scouting internationally, that it’s all about team and winning,” New Orleans General Manager Trajan Langdon said. “There are really no individualistic things that go on in Europe. When there is credit due, it’s to people who have won. A lot of times when people look at stat sheets and see a guy averaged nine points and three rebounds, (they say) why is he is the MVP of a game or a league? It’s because it’s not only about the stats; it’s what he brings to his team, whether it’s the defensive side of the floor, passing, screening. A guy like Nicolo, you can look at his stat line and be like, ‘I don’t understand the intrigue from the NBA for the last three years.’ But it’s what he brings – he’s a team-first guy, a winner. He’s highly motivated and a competitor. Those are the kind of people we want here, to be a part of the Pelicans organization. He’s another guy who’s going to make people better, on and off the court.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Minnesota hiring ROC Nation agent Joe Branch as assistant GM. Branch completes a front office transformation under Gersson Rosas. Branch’s clients included Caris LeVert, Justise Winslow and Josh Hart. His resume includes Nike, league office and Northwestern basketball.
The NBA won’t allow players to wear “ninja-style headwear” this season. Several players — including the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday, the LA Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and the Brooklyn Nets’ Jarrett Allen — regularly wore the headgear a season ago.
Of course, whether or not LaMelo is drafted will depend on how he performs in the NBL, but from a pure talent standpoint, Lonzo believes he has what it takes to play in the NBA. In fact, during a recent interview on the Lightharted Podcast, Lonzo said that LaMelo has the potential to better than him and LiAngelo: “If you look at just talent-wise, he’s got the most talent by far. I mean, it’s not even close and plus the height he’s getting now. He just all of a sudden got to 6’6”, I don’t know how. I feel like he was 5’10” when I played with him, so, I mean, the ceiling’s up for him — sky’s the limit. I’m just making sure he keeps his head on straight because, you know, in today’s world at 17 with however many followers he has, it can be a lot. I’m just making sure he stays focused and sticks to the grind.”
It is expected that Eric Woodyard, who has covered the Utah Jazz for the Deseret News, will be moving to Chicago to replace Andrews on the midwestern beat (Bulls, Bucks, Pistons, Pacers), but the deal is not yet finalized. ESPN has hired Andrew Lopez away from the Times-Picayune to cover Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
Andrew Lopez: Personal news: I’ve been hired as an NBA writer for ESPN. I’ll have more specifics later but I’ll be based in NOLA – so get ready for more Pels coverage. Working for ESPN has been a dream of mine since I was 8 or 9. And now it’s real. To say I’m excited is an understatement.
After a five-month investigation into lawyer Michael Avenatti’s allegations that Nike paid athletes, including Zion Williamson, to attend college basketball programs it sponsored, Duke “found no evidence” the former Blue Devils basketball star’s eligibility was compromised, according to information provided exclusively to The News & Observer on Friday. Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld, in an email to The News & Observer, confirmed the university’s investigation was completed with no findings of any NCAA violations involving Williamson, the 2019 ACC player of the year.
Avenatti, in a statement to the News & Observer Friday night, said that Duke didn’t seek information from him as part of its investigation. Without providing further documentation, he repeated his claim that Nike paid Williamson and that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was not only aware of the payment, but has been part of such payments to players for years. “I never heard from anyone associated with Duke in connection with my allegations or any investigation,” Avenatti said. “I was never asked a single question. I was never asked what information or documents that I was aware of. Who the hell conducted this investigation? Inspector Clouseau? The documents and the hard evidence do not lie. Zion Williamson was paid to attend Duke. Coach K has made and facilitated payments to players for years. And when the truth comes out — and eventually it will — Coach K and Duke’s reputation will be forever and rightfully tarnished.”
Suffice to say, nothing’s going to come easy for opposing backcourts next season, and Ball is excited to get things rolling with his fellow UCLA alumnus. During a recent appearance on the Lightharted Podcast, Ball said he’s looking forward to sharing the backcourt with Holiday, who Ball believes is underrated.
Josh Hart: I played my ass off for the purple and gold. Played hurt and never had an excuse. I’m truly grateful to the Lakers organization and I do understand the NBA is a business. But as a player you just want the courtesy of a phone call saying I got traded and not finding out on Twitter
Hart and ball were talking about their first year and playing Summer League as rookies when Hart, who had gotten injured but was still on the bench brought up the Big Baller Z02 shoes and Ball had one hell of a story to tell. “It was literally at least four or five times a game, they flashed Zo’s shoes on the big screen, it was just what shoes he had on,” Hart said before Ball interjected. “No one knows the real story about them shoes though,” Ball said. “Those Z02s I was playing in, they was not ready. “No one knows this but DMo (Harrison Gaines) had a backpack and an extra four pairs of shoes in there and I had to change them every quarter because they would just rip.
“If you have my shoes from those games they just exploded, I don’t know how we didn’t get caught.” Asked why he persisted with a shoe that wasn’t close to safe Ball simply said he had to due to being too far down the rabbit hole. ”They was my shoe, we had to debut them — we went so far with it and I am like ‘cool I can get a quarter in’ but nobody noticed and by the end of that quarter they were beat up. “And when I changed them I was like ‘damn I’m good again’. “The real truth — I was scared.”
In the latest episode of “Ball In the Family,” LiAngelo revealed that all three of his brothers are now represented by CAA Sports: “When Zo got signed to CAA, they took me and Melo too. I’m trying to get on a summer league team and then hopefully that carry me to the NBA. It feels like stuff is starting to fall into place and it feels good.”
When you’re watching film, who are some players you study? Kevin Huerter: As a player, I want to be more of a complete package rather than just being known as a three-point shooter. Coming out of college, I got the Kyle Korver and JJ Redick comparisons pretty quickly. Those guys are unbelievable, but, for me, I’m looking more toward guys like Bradley Beal and Gordon Hayward and Klay Thompson since those guys do a little bit more off-the-dribble than Kyle and JJ and they have more of a complete game. I look at those guys and try to study their different moves, how they get shots off, where they get their shots and things like that. Those are the main guys I watched throughout the year.
On Saturday night in Death Valley, Zion Williamson was spotted on the sidelines for the season opener against Georgia Southern. LSU had offered Williamson a scholarship to play tight end when he was coming out of high school in North Carolina.
Johnson confirmed to The Undefeated that he was slated to work out for the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia on Thursday and that “a few NBA teams want me to work out.” He also is receiving interest from the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and the Pelicans, sources said. After having a minimal role during his last stint in Houston, Johnson hopes to remaster his NBA ending next season.
Lonzo Ball: I’m not dissing anybody I loved my time in LA. I use my music as an outlet to express things that happen in my life #50and30 out now! Let me know y’all favorite track 👌🏼 pic.twitter.com/xBhI3Ld6ZK
Lonzo Ball dropped his second mixtape titled “50&30″— named after the 50 points and 30 rebounds his manager, Darren Moore, dropped in a charity game — on Thursday and on the first track, “Last Days,” he aired out his grievances with the Los Angeles Lakers and his former Big Baller Brand business partner Alan Foster.
The song opens with the hook, in which Ball repeatedly says the Lakers will regret trading him: “You know I’m all about business; L.A. is going to regret their decision; Straight to the money, you know how we get it; We count up the cash and add up the digits.”
Will Guillory: The Pelicans announced this morning that Darius Miller suffered a torn Achilles and underwent successful surgery to repair it. Brutal blow for the forward after he received a nice payday in free agency.
Marc J. Spears: Add the Pelicans to that list of interest in Joe Johnson, a source said. Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry and VP David Griffin watched Joe Johnson play in the @thebig3 in New Orleans last week.
Adam Johnson: Here are the results from today’s @nbagleague expansion draft for the @ErieBayHawks 14 players selected in total.
Emiliano Carchia: Nicolò Melli said that two summers ago turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the Hawks to sign, for less money, for Fenerbahce. He signed a 2yrs, $8M contract this summer with New Orleans Pelicans “Never made choices based only on salary” Melli told Resto del Carlino
“At 11pm my agent Matteo Comellini sent me a message with the proposal made by the Pelicans. I felt a strong vibration. The same I had two years ago the first time I spoke with coach Obradovic” Melli said. “I got the same proposal two summers ago from the Atlanta Hawks but I decided to sign with Fenerbahce for less money. My choices never depended on salary and the same happened this summer” Melli said.
Attorneys for New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson filed additional amendments to a lawsuit that is attempting to enforce the termination of a signed agreement with a Florida marketing company. The amendments, filed in U.S. District Court in North Carolina by Williamson’s New York-based lawyer, Jeffrey Klein, on Wednesday, include further details of alleged violations of North Carolina state sports-agent laws by the Florida company, Prime Sports Marketing, and its president, Gina Ford. Prime Sports filed a suit in Florida court in June, shortly after Williamson’s filing, that seeks $100 million in damages from Williamson and his current representation, Creative Arts Agency, for “breach of contract.”
The amended complaint on Williamson’s behalf toward Prime Sports include an allegation that Ford and Prime Sports began recruiting Williamson as early as January 2019, when he was still engaged with his freshman basketball season at Duke. Prime Sports and Ford were not certified by the National Basketball Players Association or registered in the state of North Carolina, which is at the crux of Williamson’s case to enforce termination of his agreement with Prime Sports.
Many states, including North Carolina and Florida, require by law that agents are registered to recruit or sign prospective professional athletes. After breaking with Prime Sports, Williamson signed with CAA for his contractual and marketing representation.
Chris Vivlamore: Voting for Rookie of the Year. Who will be the 2019-20 Kia Rookie of the Year? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans — 35% 2. Ja Morant, Memphis — 27% 3. R.J. Barrett, New York — 5% Cam Reddish, Atlanta — 5%
Brazil will travel to China having a veteran team which can’t be underestimated. Rafael Hettsheimeir was the last cut from the pre-selection roster and many familiar names still have gas on their tank. The 12 players selected by coach Alexander Petrovic are the following: Marcelinho Huertas (Iberostar Tenerife) Rafa Luz (MorBanc Andorra), Yago Mateus (Paulistano), Didi Louzada (New Orleans Pelicans), Alex Garcia, Vitor Benite ( San Pablo Burgos), Leandro Barbosa (Minas Tenis), Marquinhos (Flamengo), Bruno Caboclo (Memphis Grizzlies), Anderson Varejao (Flamengo), Cristiano Felicio (Chicago Bulls), Augusto Lima (San Pablo Burgos).
Hart told Hayes the compliments were not “even the highlights, you just have a really good feel for the game.” Hart then asked Hayes if he “always have that, or did you get it at Texas, or was it just gradual, taking pieces from each place?” Hayes responded: ”I feel like I’ve always kinda had it because, I mean, when I was younger, I was short. My freshman year, I played point guard, sophomore year I was a stretch three, my junior year was really my first year playing big. So, I feel like that definitely helped, so I’ve always kinda had that flow to my game.”
Anthony Olivieri: Most poignantly, @Zionwilliamson : “My worst fear is–and I know it’s not going to happen–you hear about people losing their love for the game. I hope that never happens to me because I love the game so much. If that happens to me, I’d be so hurt.” CC: @BillSimmons @ryenarussillo
Attorneys representing lawyer Michael Avenatti filed a court motion on Wednesday that alleges that a Nike employee at least approved under-the-table payments to former Duke star Zion Williamson and ex-Indiana star Romeo Langford when they were still in high school in February 2017.
The alleged offers — $35,000 or more for Williamson and $20,000 for Langford — were purportedly discovered among “text messages, e-mails and other documents from 2016-17 … proving that Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” according to the motion filed in U.S. District Court in New York.
Elfrid Payton Sr., a Louisiana native and former star defensive end in the Canadian Football League, believes Pelicans history would have changed had his son not gone down. Payton played just one game from Oct. 29, when he sprained his ankle, to Dec. 31. After returning from the ankle sprain on Nov. 16, he broke his middle finger in a game against the Knicks. “I honestly believe if Elfrid doesn’t get hurt and stays healthy, they were making the playoffs,’’ Payton Sr. told The Post in a phone interview from Gretna, La.
Nicolo Melli will not play for Italy in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but two of his teammates are making progress. Danilo Gallinari is now training individually and Luigi Datome joined his teammates but is still restricted in terms of fully participating in practices, per La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Scott Kushner: According to @VividSeats, the Pelicans’ ranked No. 2 in year-over-year increased traffic on their ticket site (trailing only LAC) for schedule release day. They also said the Pelicans currently rank No. 7 overall in total NBA traffic.
Lonzo Ball recently got a tattoo sleeve on his arm that features some truly incredible art work depicting historic black icons. Tattoo artist Steve Butcher, who tattooed Ball’s sleeve, shared a video clip on Instagram Monday showing off the final piece. Butcher said Ball was 99 percent healed at the time the video was recorded.
Bobby Marks: With the 2019-20 NBA Schedule now announced, Mon. Oct. 21 @ 6PM ET. is the deadline for a player to sign a rookie extension. There are 17 players eligible, headlined by Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, Dejounte Murray and Buddy Hield.
Scott Kushner: The Pelicans have a record 20 (Twenty!) games on TNT, ESPN & ABC. ABC games: vs Clippers on Jan. 18 & at Rockets on Feb. 2. The franchise’s first network appearances since 2009. Three of the Pelicans first five games will be nationally broadcast on TNT or ESPN. #ZionEffect
The Knicks will open the 2019-20 regular season on the road. The first regular-season visit to the Garden by No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson is Jan. 10 when New Orleans comes to town, according to an NBA source.
One of the bigger questions around the Knicks entering the season is what should the expectations be for rookie R.J. Barrett? “(Knicks fans) can expect that they’re getting a killer,” Zion Williamson said in an interview with SNY at Panini’s NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on Sunday. “For the people that are trying to look down on him, RJ’s been through worse. He knows how to battle through it and he’s going to bring the city everything he’s got.”
Shams Charania: The Toronto Raptors are expected to receive their championship rings on opening night, Oct. 22, hosting New Orleans and No. 1 pick Zion Williamson. Some other notable games, per sources: pic.twitter.com/tzarJQmTgx
Sierato: Real name Cory Bailey, is a former tattoo artist based out of Baltimore. He started making shoes for NFL players and rappers before working with NBA players. Sierato has his own YouTube show, “Overtime,” which has allowed him to grow his clientele. Since “Overtime” covers a lot of high school sports, Sierato has worked with several younger players. You might have seen his Duke customs for Zion Williamson during the NCAA tournament, then again in the NBA Summer League. “We really wanted to be as show-stopperish with his as possible,” Bailey said of Zion’s shoes.
Shams Charania: Expected opening night of 2019-20 NBA season: Oct. 22, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Planned games for opening night: Los Angeles Lakers/LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors/New Orleans Pelicans.
WHEN ZION WILLIAMSON arrived at the sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas for his prime-time debut at the NBA summer league in early July, his choice of footwear had the NBA buzzing. Could Puma actually pull this off? A year after Puma landed 2018 No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton for the company’s reentry into the basketball sneaker market, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft walked into the arena for his first NBA game wearing a white and red blast pair of the Puma RS-X Reinvention.
And while he hit the court that night wearing a pair of Nike Kyrie 4s from his Duke days, he spent the rest of summer league alternating between sneakers from Puma and Jordan Brand as he sat and watched his New Orleans Pelicans teammates from the sidelines. Those two companies had emerged as the front-runners in the Zion sweepstakes, a bidding war that saw some competitors offer deals that could’ve paid the young superstar nearly $20 million per year. In the end, Michael Jordan got his man.
SONNY VACCARO HAD a plan. The legendary sports marketing pioneer, who famously pushed Nike to sign Jordan 35 years ago, was serving as an adviser to Williamson and Lee Anderson, Williamson’s stepfather. From the beginning of the process, Vaccaro tried to create a sense of urgency around the May 14 draft lottery. “My conversation with the family was that I see dead spots [marketwise] in this draft,” he said. “My speech was that, ‘We’re going to do this early. It’s going to be done before you go there.'”
But the company knew that a strong social media presence and flashy on-court sneakers wouldn’t be enough to land Williamson. So when they met with the future No. 1 pick earlier this spring, they offered him an impressive financial commitment: a deal that soared as high as $15 million per year, plus the potential to add an additional $3 million a year in bonuses, according to industry sources. The initial meeting went well, and in ongoing talks throughout the following months, Puma appeared to have presented Williamson with the kind of comprehensive package — both financial and intangible — that he wasn’t going to get with another brand.
When Williamson walked into summer league wearing one of Puma’s casual sneakers, company executives were beaming. Heading into Las Vegas Summer League action, Puma execs believed they’d get a final answer from Williamson on their pitch by the end of the weekend. Seeing him start the weekend in a Puma shoe made them believe they had a great shot of landing him.
Dave McMenamin: David Griffin came on The Jump today to discuss his comments about LeBron James in a recent SI story. Here he explains what caused him to say LeBron was a “different animal” when it came to winning following the ‘16 chip pic.twitter.com/pJdsDQP94C
Shams Charania: Sources: Notable superstar return games on 2019-20 NBA schedule: Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard at Toronto: Dec. 11; Lakers‘ Anthony Davis at New Orleans: Nov. 27; Nets‘ Kyrie Irving at Boston: Nov. 27; Rockets’ Russell Westbrook at Oklahoma City: Jan. 9.
Harrison Faigen: Griffin said on “The Jump” he made his point poorly, and that he was talking about the media portrayal and scrutiny. He said he struggled to deal with that, not struggled to work with LeBron.
Harrison Faigen: David Griffin on his relationship with LeBron, via the Jump: “I would say that my relationship with LeBron and Rich was very strong, and remains very strong… (We) enjoyed working together.”
Oleh Kosel: David Griffin: “The writer got a great deal of information from many, many people in the organization about our team and what we were trying to do so I’m disappointed that the story became about me and a sensationalized version of quotes that were totally taken out of context.”
The Vertical: The NBA is giving us some serious gifts for Christmas this year 🎄 Lakers vs. Clippers Rockets vs. Warriors Bucks vs. Sixers New Orleans vs. Denver Boston vs. Toronto per @Adrian Wojnarowski. pic.twitter.com/bp3ofEbngx
Gentry says there’s a right way and a wrong way to request a trade. If a star agrees to work privately with the franchise, and agrees to wait until the offseason, he says, it avoids high-profile disruptions that hurt both the player and the team. “I’m a realist,” Gentry says. “When Anthony signed with Klutch Sports, I knew what was going to happen. They told me, ‘No, we’re not trying to get him traded,’ but we all realized it was just a matter of time. “I understand that some players feel the need to move on. With Anthony, it could have and should have been handled differently. If it was, I would have been OK with the situation.”
They of course found vindication in 2016, historically overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The following season, however, brought that fantasy summer crashing back to reality. James’ contagious hunger to deliver a championship for Northeast Ohio dissipated. “There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin says. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.” Many in the NBA now suggest James harbors two priorities: enduring to team with his eldest son, Bronny, and one day owning a franchise. The rest of the Cavaliers, in kind, hibernated on their laurels. After sporting the league’s 10th best defense the season prior, Cleveland plummeted to dead last as defending champions. The Cavs believed they could sleepwalk through the Eastern Conference—although to be fair, they practically did. “There was somebody better than me at keeping them on task after we won,” Griffin says. “I did a really s****y job of bringing enough urgency to the next year.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees doesn’t see himself and Pelicans rookie forward Zion Williamson as an odd couple from different generations and sports. Brees sees key parallels in the timing of each of their arrivals on New Orleans’ pro sports scene, and is eager to share what he’s learned if it can help Williamson understand the task — and opportunity — at hand. “Certainly, I am always going to be there for Zion,” Brees said after practice Thursday at Saints training camp. “Whatever I can do to help guide, to help advise, to help mentor, I’m there.”
Shortly after the Pelicans used their top overall draft choice to select Williamson , a former Duke star and consensus top pro prospect coming out of college, Brees gave Williamson a signed jersey. “That was just my personal statement to him, welcoming him to the city, letting him know that I want to be there for him as a resource — whatever I can do,” Brees said.
Griffin told Sports Illustrated for a story published Thursday that the annual challenge of building a title contender around James was too stressful, even if it did result in a championship in 2016. “Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable,” Griffin said. “Literally the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. There was no way I was gonna stay for any amount of money.”
Sources close to James told ESPN on Thursday they were “shocked” at Griffin’s characterization of the superstar. James seemingly addressed the Griffin story via a tweet on Thursday without mentioning him by name.
Griffin told SI that being in James’ orbit created a vacuum when it came to doling out due for what James’ teams accomplish. “LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people,” Griffin said of the challenge of working with and playing with James. “They don’t like being part of that world.” A source familiar with Griffin’s thinking said the Pelicans exec’s intention was to refer to the media machine surrounding James and simply acknowledge a byproduct of his immense celebrity, rather than blame James for creating the atmosphere.
Teams traditionally map out a five-year plan (or longer) for growth, factoring in future drafts, trades and free-agency signings. “But you can throw that out the window now,” says New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. “There’s too much movement — too much unexpected movement. You can’t plan beyond next year.”
They of course found vindication in 2016, historically overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The following season, however, brought that fantasy summer crashing back to reality. James’ contagious hunger to deliver a championship for Northeast Ohio dissipated. “There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin says. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.”
They’ve found opportunities within the NBA to fill the void in their lives. In Cleveland, Meredith spearheaded the Cavs’ Better Halves program, organizing viewing parties and shopping trips for the players’ wives and baking events for their kids. The team quickly referred to her as “BossLady.” Griffin guided younger Cavs front office members as if they were his own. Adoption always loomed as a possibility. Yet it’s a rather difficult notion when a family isn’t rooted to a base. Cleveland wasn’t that home. The pressures of annually supplementing LeBron James with a contending roster mounted endlessly. “Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable,” Griffin says. “Literally the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. There was no way I was gonna stay for any amount of money.”
As champagne popped in the Cavs’ locker room, Griffin privately wept in an Oakland broom closet. A one-track mind had removed anything but delivering the city’s first championship in 52 years from consciousness. “I didn’t watch the league, and I didn’t love the game anymore,” Griffin says. “I was so fixated on outcome that I just totally lost my joy.” His NBA TV sidestep proved therapeutic. He rediscovered his passion for the game. An appetite to steer a franchise returned, the lingering bad taste from Cleveland crystalizing Griffin’s ideal next destination. “I was kind of chomping at the bit to do it right,” he says.
Instead of chasing ping pong balls, they expect to battle despite the West’s stingy field. Griffin warns New Orleans will play buyer at the trade deadline if the playoffs are within his grasp. “People are gonna be like, ‘What the f— are they doing?’” he says. “We’re trying to win basketball games!” He knows vying for victory most often ends in defeat. But teams that overcome losing together—like Griffin’s Suns, unlike Griffin’s Cavs—grow together. Redick has reached the postseason in each of his 13 seasons. Yet he and new starting center Derrick Favors are both still seeking the ultimate goal. “We don’t have guys that are complacent champions,” Griffin says. “We’ve got really f—ing hungry winners.” One afternoon following Davis’ trade request, Gentry and Holiday banded together. “I’m not a tanker,” the guard declared. Gentry approved. “I don’t see it,” the coach says. “It takes you from 6.8% to 7% [lottery odds].”
They will combat the rumbling undercurrent of social media. Instagram highlights fueled Williamson’s star turn. Gentry’s scheme will help stem that tide. In adding Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart from L.A. to a seasoned backcourt of Holiday and free agent splash J.J. Redick, the Pelicans should have a minimum of four ball handlers on the floor at all times, allowing everyone to rev and start the break. “If we don’t lead the league in pace next year, I’ll be disappointed,” Gentry says. Griffin does one better: “We’ll probably play the fastest style of ball that’s been played, maybe ever,” he says. Zippy teams spell doom when their roster can’t guard at the speed it’s offense requires. New Orleans boasts switchable, long perimeter hounds across its lineups. “We’re going to be able to defend at an alarming pace,” Griffin says.
Alex Kennedy: Anthony Davis told Kimmel that he was watching the movie “Downsizing” when the Lakers-Pelicans trade went down. People from his camp were trying to reach him, but he didn’t want to interrupt the movie so he didn’t know the trade was done until he saw everyone discussing it on IG.
Growing up, I loved what Kobe did and Dirk did, and I think if anybody’s a Michael Jordan fan, they kinda erase the Wizards thing. He still did very well there, but at the end of the day, I don’t think people look at it from the business point of view. Some people want to stay with one team but they get traded. My intentions are to stay with the Pelicans my whole career, but if something happens, I wouldn’t leave because I hate the place. It’s just the business.
All of the hype has led to this point. Williamson is set to embark on his NBA journey, eager to lead the Pels to their first chip. Not only that, but contrary to the trend du jour of superstars taking their talents to larger NBA markets, he plans to remain in New Orleans for the long haul. “Growing up, I loved what Kobe did and Dirk did… My intentions are to stay with the Pelicans my whole career,” he tells Complex in an exclusive interview.
Obviously, LeBron teamed with D-Wade and the Heat in 2010. Kyrie and KD are linking in Brooklyn. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to reunite with RJ Barrett at any point in your career? Zion Williamson: Yeah, we talked about it in college a lot. We kinda talked about it as we were both going to get our careers started and see how it goes. I mean, if we can possibly link up in the future, that would be great. But we both understand that if things are going well in our prospective cities, we’ll just kind of leave it there.
You’ve got a promising group of young talent playing for the Pelicans this year, between you, Lonzo, Brandon Ingram, and Jaxson Hayes. What do you think this team’s ceiling is? Zion Williamson: Me being confident in my teammates, I would say I think the ceiling is [a] championship. But I have to be realistic about this. I have high expectations for us, but you gotta see how we’re gonna work.
From the NBA 2K League, which features gaming squads for 21 of the league’s franchises, to Josh Hart and Reggie Jackson competing at the Fortnite Pro-Am at Epic Games’ Summer Block Party in June, it’s impossible to walk into an NBA locker room without finding a few players ready to throw down in their favorite video game. “The biggest gamer I know personally is Josh Hart,” said Lonzo Ball at PUBG Mobile’s Team Up Superstar Showdown event. “Just being around him, I know he is streaming all the time. He loves games to this day.”
In Detroit, Pistons big man Andre Drummond is a connoisseur of a wider array of video games. Whereas Lonzo and other gamers in the NBA generally stick to sports simulations such as 2K or Madden, Drummond began his love of gaming through story-based, open-world games. He’s a fan of the Grand Theft Auto games, especially the fifth installment in the series. Currently, he’s enraptured with the newest God of War game, which was released last year, praising how the game’s story has kept him engaged.
Williamson has signed with 2K, he and the video-game giant announced Tuesday, and the former Duke standout will make his video-game debut in NBA 2K20 when it launches on Sept. 6. “It’s crazy,” Williamson said. “None of this will ever seem normal to me.” A person familiar with the terms said Williamson and 2K agreed on a three-year contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the deal have not been released. It’s the latest major deal in a rapidly growing off-court enterprise for Williamson, perhaps the most celebrated No. 1 pick to enter the league since LeBron James in 2003.