Zion Williamson looked less than thrilled when his reaction was shown after the New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA draft lottery. This has led some fans to wonder whether Williamson could force a Pelicans trade by refusing to play in New Orleans. The Ringer’s Bill Simmons suggested Williamson should pull an “Eli Manning.”
“What happens if Zion pulls a 2004 Eli Manning and says tomorrow, ‘Sorry, I’m not going to New Orleans, I’m never playing there, I want to go to the Knicks or Hawks?'” Simmons tweeted.
ESPN’s Rachel Nichols noted on Scott Van Pelt’s Sportscenter that Williamson looked like he had been “hit by a truck” after the Pelicans won the No. 1 pick. ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that Williamson was hoping to go to the Knicks.
“Zion Williamson was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after Pelicans were announced the winner of the draft lottery. Source said the former Duke star was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans,” Spears tweeted.
Here is a look at Williamson’s reaction after the Pelicans landed the pick.
Could Zion Force His Way to Another Team?
Williamson’s excitement level (or lack thereof) has little impact on what will happen during the NBA draft. While most NBA draft prospects give harmless answers about wanting to play for any NBA team, it is human nature to have a preference or two about where you land. With Williamson a lock to be the No. 1 pick, it made for an awkward experience as ESPN continued to zoom in on Williamson’s face as teams were revealed and thus ruled out as possible destinations for the Duke star.
All signs point to the Pelicans keeping the pick and drafting Williamson. His lack of excitement will have no impact on New Orleans’ decision. While Williamson could technically come out and refuse to play for the Pelicans, we have rarely seen this in the NBA.
We saw Steve Francis force his way out of Vancouver back in 1999 when the Grizzlies were located in Canada. It is a decision Francis stands by as he detailed in The Players’ Tribune.
Now, I know people in Vancouver are still pissed off at me for forcing a trade out of there. I damn near cried when I got taken by the Grizzlies at No. 2. I was not about to go up to freezing-ass Canada, so far away from my family, when they were about to move the franchise anyway. I’m sorry but … actually, I’m really not even sorry. Everybody sees the business of basketball now. That team was gone. The only thing I’m sorry about is that I went up there and gave probably the rudest press conference in NBA history before they traded me.
With the way the NBA CBA is structured, teams have the leverage for the first contract. Everything from the way the contract is structured to the draft is made to benefit the franchise and attempt to create parity across the league. Williamson has little leverage in this situation other than to threaten to return back to Duke for his sophomore season.
There has been no indication from Williamson’s camp that he will do anything other than play for the Pelicans. While the entire world saw Williamson’s lack of a poker face during the lottery, a lot can change by the time October rolls around. Besides, who does not want to go to New Orleans?