“We never had a single conversation that Zion was part of”

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The rumors were hot around the NBA Draft: Would the Trail Blazers trade the No. 2 pick to the Pelicans for a package based around Zion Williamson? Whether those talks were serious or not, there was plenty of discussion around league circles that Zion was not an untouchable trade piece for New Orleans, although the price would be incredibly high.

Pelicans Executive VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin denied even that is true in an appearance from Summer League on SiriusXM NBA Radio with hosts Justin Termine and Amin Elhassan.

“I think what’s unfortunate is he is a name that generates clicks no matter what the link says. ‘Zion puts on his socks.’ People click on that. And so it makes it really easy for people to manufacture rumor around him because they don’t have to have any kind of actual credibility behind what they say to generate clicks. And we’ve, as a society, this isn’t true of sports, this is true across all platforms, reality doesn’t matter anymore. Generating clicks matters. And so, unfortunately for Zion, he’s just, he’s an oddity and somebody that people pay a great deal of attention to and manufacture a lot of stories around.

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“We never had a single conversation that Zion was part of. I think people perceive that we would be willing to move off of Zion because of all the injuries, because there’s always so much noise around Zion. And fortunately for us, the noise never actually matches what we’re really experiencing.”

Termine pressed Griffin and asked if he had received calls from other teams asking about Zion.

“No, we didn’t. And I think one of the reasons for that is people understand who he is to our franchise and what he allows us to do. So people don’t tend to call you and chase things that they know you’re not gonna do.”
Three things to note here.

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First, everyone in front offices are in PR spin mode right now to put their team in the best light. That includes other front offices that want to show ownership/fan bases that they tried everything this summer (including checking on Zion’s availability) to Griffin. Don’t believe all of what anyone says. NBA league sources have told NBC Sports of frustration in the New Orleans organization with Zion’s availability in recent years, however, that doesn’t mean they are ready to trade him.

Second, how these conversations generally work is they bubble up to the GM/President. Other teams that want to gauge the availability of Zion (or any other player) start that in conversations much lower down the ladder, allowing a GM to say he had no such discussions while allowing them to happen on some level.

Third, Griffin said the Pelicans’ relationship with Zion is “as good as it’s ever been, actually.” He has motivation to say that. It doesn’t mean it’s not true, but he wants to project that either way.

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If this full Pelicans roster — Zion, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum (all three have played a total of 10 games together in a season and a half), Herb Jones, Larry Nance Jr., Trey Murphy III — stay mostly healthy for the season, this very well could be a top-four team in the West. They have that talent (and were a top-three seed while Zion was healthy last season), but betting on health with this team is a big risk. Zion is at the forefront of that, and while he is saying the right things about getting healthy for next season, it will have to be actions, and not words, that get the rest of us to buy in.

If he has another injury-filled season, Griffin would have a hard time trading Zion even if he wanted to.

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