Since being drafted in 2019, Zion Williamson has been under the watchful eye of the NBA community. Hailed as basketball's next big thing, the 1x All-Star was juggling big expectations from the start.
Today, Williamson is battling some health issues that or may not involve his weight. 31 games in, and Zion has not yet played a single game this season.
With doubt and criticism swirling over Zion's head, big man Jaxson Hayes came to his defense in a recent interview.
It’s crazy, because everyone’s been trying to fry him. I know he’s trying to ignore all that stuff and do what he has to do. When we’re sitting at the game, people are yelling stuff at him. I just tell him, “Bro, they’re just mad because they’re not in your shoes.” That’s all you can tell him. We all know how much he wants to play. He’s doing all he can to get back right. But there’s nothing we can do until he’s healthy. We just have to be there to support him.
Despite the underwhelming start from Zion so far, the Pelicans have not wavered in their confidence that he is the face of their future.
In fact, Hayes is not the only person in the franchise trying to shield Zion from criticism.
Williamson was receiving so much criticism online, Swin Cash, the Pelicans vice president of basketball operations and team development, defended Williamson on Twitter.
"Imagine photoshopping a 21yr old every chance you get and leaving harsh comments for likes," Cash wrote on Tuesday. "Whew the clown behavior really is shocking Especially from adults!"
At 21-years-old, Zion still has plenty of time to prove he's on par with the NBA's elite. Through the 85 games he has played so far, he has shown flashes of stardom on plenty of occasions.
But until he's consistently available for the Pels, there will always be doubts about his future in the league.
It's up to Zion to answer the call.