Zion Williamson hasn’t personally (at least publically) voiced his displeasure with the Pelicans organization. However, cracks in the relationship between the first-time All-Star and the organization that selected him first overall just two seasons ago may be coming to the surface.
For starters, the Pels have struggled to find the proper head honcho to help guide Williamson throughout the early stages of his budding superstardom. The team hasn’t finished better than 11th-place in the West since the forward’s arrival in 2019. Now, after parting ways with Stan Van Gundy after just one season on the job, Williamson is primed to play under his third coach in as many years since being drafted.
Furthermore, The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory recently reported that Williamson’s family has grown increasingly irritated with the organization’s handling of the 21-year-old star and their inability to surround him with the proper pieces to succeed.
If Williamson’s relationship with the Pelicans ultimately goes south, could the Celtics be waiting for the high-flying forward with open arms? With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each under contract through at least 2024, they have the talent to bury some of the Williamson family’s concerns and, as NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg highlighted, the financial flexibility to make such a deal happen.
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NBC Sports Boston Lists Williamson as TPE ‘Target’
Move over Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, there’s a new star for Bostonians to fantasize about donning Celtics Green. With an approximate $11 million traded player exception at their disposal remaining from the Gordon Hayward deal, Forsberg mustered up a list of 10 targets the Celtics could “fetch on the trade market.”
The most notable name on the list? Williamson — and it’s not even close.
While the plausibility of such a deal going down remains unlikely at the moment, Forsberg notes “it’s mathematically feasible” for Boston to target Williamson, whose average salary checks in at a smidge over $10.2 million per year ($10.7 million in 2021-22). The insider also highlighted how due to the team’s limited spending money, the TPE is likely the Celtics’ best way to quickly bolster their roster.
Given the Celtics’ limited ability to splurge on free agents — re-signing Fournier would likely push them into the tax and limit the team to the $6 million taxpayer midlevel exception — targeting under-contract talent below the $11 million mark could be important to beefing up this roster.
Pels Damaging Their Chances of Keeping Zion Long-Term?
According to The Athletic, the Pelicans and vice president of basketball operations David Griffin didn’t do themselves any favors with Williamson when they decided to trade veteran J.J. Redick to the Dallas Mavericks this season.
When the Pels traded J.J. Redick to Dallas in March, it not only upset Redick but also is said to have irritated Williamson. Redick had asked to either be traded before the season or to stay in New Orleans all season for family reasons and proceeded to blast the organization and executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin on his podcast after the trade. Redick was a veteran with whom Williamson had grown comfortable in their two seasons together, and the dysfunction Redick accused the Pelicans of harboring is said to have stoked some of Williamson’s own feelings with regards to the direction of the franchise.
Redick, who Williamson had clearly grown fond of since his arrival in New Orleans, has more linkage to the budding superstar than just their shared Duke roots. The two also share an agency, CAA sports — something that could prove to be a major pitfall for the Pelicans when it comes to locking Williamson up for the long-term.
‘I don’t think you’re going to get honesty from that (New Orleans) front office, objectively speaking,’ Redick said after the trade, echoing the exact line of criticism people close to Williamson had levied against the Pelicans. ‘That’s an opinion. I just don’t think you’re gonna get that. I don’t think what happened with me is necessarily an isolated incident. It’s not something where I would expect certainly the agents who worked on this with me to ever trust that front office again.’
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