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Zion Williamson Is Destined To Play For the New York Knicks, It’s Just A Matter Of Time

Zion Williamson Is Destined To Play For the New York Knicks, It’s Just A Matter Of Time

Zion Williamson has been in the news recently because there are indications he doesn’t want to play in New Orleans anymore. Zion hasn’t personally given any sign he wants out. The whispers are coming from his father.

Matt Barnes, a former player who’s wired into the NBA recently said:

“I don’t think Zion wants to be there… There’s been rumblings, not from him but from his family, from the jump. And it’s hard for small market teams to keep young superstars.”

We’ve seen this movie before. A few years back, Anthony Davis’s father voiced his displeasure about how the Pelicans organization was being run. AD stayed mum for a while until he suddenly demanded a trade that eventually sent him to one of the biggest markets in the world, Los Angeles.

Zion, like AD, is an All-Star big man playing for the same struggling Pelicans team located in a small football city. It’s true Williamson hasn’t come out and disparaged New Orleans, but as the old cliché goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and this situation is about as gray as a smokers lounge at LAX before a transcontinental flight.

Can Zion Williamson work his way out of New Orleans?

He can go James Harden on the Pelicans and show up to work uninterested and out-of-shape next season, letting New Orleans management know he’s not the answer to their championship prayers, essentially demanding a trade. Of course, the Pelicans would be under no obligation to deal their young and talented centerpiece. In that case, Zion has another threat up his sleeve, one that’s rare but doable.

Williamson’s rookie-scale deal expires after the 2022-23 season. Nearly every talented rookie signs an extension with the team that drafted him before his first contract finishes, but Zion doesn’t have to. He could decline an extension, instead signing a one-year qualifying offer with New Orleans during 2023-24 (think Deandre Ayton this year with the Suns), which would leave him an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2024.

One way or another, Zion Williamson will leave the small market, no-shot-at-a-title Pelicans for brighter lights. And no city shines more than New York.

Zion is destined to play for the Knicks; it’s only a matter of time.

The Garden Isn’t Meant For Most People

Last year Knicks forward Julius Randle averaged 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 5.2 APG while shooting 41.1% from deep as he led New York to a surprise playoff bid. The Garden loved him. Fans showered Randle with heart-pounding applause every time he stepped on the court.

Fast forward to the 2021-22 season. Randle averaged only 18.9 PPG on 32.1% shooting from deep while playing half-hearted defense in November, and after only one month of sub-par play, murmurs began to spread through the Garden crowd. Orange Julius continued to blend poor outside shooting with lazy defense in December as the Knicks went 6-8, and the murmurs turned to head-turning, cat-calling boos. As the year flipped to January, you could almost see Julius Randle, eyes bulging and shoulders tensed, breaking down inside the walls that had loved him the year before, his glory forgotten, turned to mush.

The Knicks are nearly finished with a 25-34 record, and Randle has one of the worst on/off splits in the league at -14.3 per 100 possessions in what has turned into a nightly torture session of heckling every time he steps on the court.

New York will do that to a player.

Very few athletes have the mental fortitude to play in the pressure-filled Garden, but Zion Williamson is one of them. He has the attitude, personality, and most importantly, the confidence to succeed in New York.

Williamson loves the spotlight. While other high school athletes were busy worrying about their upcoming algebra test, or the girl they have a crush on, or the pimple on their cheek, Zion was blowing up across America. During his junior year at Spartanburg, he averaged 36.8 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and 2.5 BPG, and he poured in 51 points in the state title game. Still, his massive dunks turned him from Zion Williamson into a one-named legend, Zion. He was a regular on Sports Center’s Top-10 Plays before he went off to college, and he garnered millions of views across YouTube and Twitter as a high school student.

Zion has never shied away from criticism, flashing his confident smile any time someone has questioned his weight, conditioning, injury history, or three-point stroke. Williamson has his warts, but he’s been in the public eye since before he could drive. He’s got what it takes inside to withstand the media weight of New York and the fierceness of the Madison Square Garden crowd.

New York Is The Mecca Of Basketball

My hometown, Los Angeles, is an amazing basketball city. During the Lakers Kobe/Pau era of three straight finals appearances and two titles, it felt like one out of every four cars on the road had a purple and gold flag waving from its window. Every time I’d pull up next to another vehicle waving a Lakers flag at a red light, I’d look over and flash the driver a proud smirk as he nodded his head. Pride.

And when news broke about Kobe’s death, the entire city gasped. Our Kobe, who regularly woke up at 4:00 in the morning, working his butt off to bring LA five titles, was suddenly gone. We had a collective lump in our throats, and it was all we talked about for weeks.

Still, La La Land can’t compare to New York. LA is too spread out, and it’s too warm in the winter to drag everyone inside to their television sets for the game.

In its compacted, freezing greatness, NYC truly is the mecca of basketball. It seems like everyone in the Big Apple follows the Knicks, from the bankers on Wall Street to the waitresses in the local diner to the musicians trying to find fame. Everyone loves to argue about the Knicks when they struggle, getting into sadistic, frowning, angry-eyed verbal battles about what’s ailing them this year. But, when the Knicks are winning, it genuinely brings the city together. During games, the bars fill up with massive chanting crowds coming together as one for their team. It’s special.

Zion Williamson is about as famous as a young player who’s never made the playoffs can become, a walking highlight reel who could bring New York to its united feet. Going beyond dunks. Zion is an All-Star. Last season he averaged 27.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG as he led the young New Orleans Pelicans to a solid 29-32 record while he was suited up against a very tough slate of Western Conference squads.

The mecca of basketball has been dying for a genuine star they can rally around. It’s been nearly 30 years since Patrick Ewing and John Starks led the Knicks to the finals before losing to the Houston Rockets.

Nearly 30 years!!!!!

Zion’s confidence and New York’s desperation are a perfect match, a relationship that would bend the NBA back to the Big Apple.

Zion Will Bring The Title Back To Madison Square Garden

The NBA is down on Zion right now, and fans have begun wondering about his commitment to the game.

Williamson has been hindered with a foot issue and hasn’t played a single game in 2021-22.

Making matters worse, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported back in October that Zion had reached over 300 pounds after his foot surgery over the summer. And recent video footage of Williamson warming up on the court before a Pelicans contest against the Knicks featured the New Orleans star looking like a six-month pregnant woman, belly spurting out a little too far.

This type of reaction to a struggling young player with body issues is nothing new.

Kevin Durant was tooth-floss thin when he came into the league as the second overall pick. Fans and experts alike scoffed at his slight frame, inefficient shooting numbers, and the way he was bullied on defense. Everyone wondered if he’d ever lead a team to the top of the league. KD put on muscle, placed two chips in his pocket, and is a future Hall-of-Famer.

Allen Iverson was taken number one by the Philadelphia 76ers with questions draped across his 5-11, 165-pound frame. Can his body handle the day-to-day rigors of the NBA? Can he finish in the lane at under 6-feet tall? And on and on. Iverson was small, but he hit the gym hard, making sure he was in excellent condition. He finished his career as a 17-time All-Star, a member of the NBA Top-75, and led Philadelphia to the finals.

Nikola Jokic entered the NBA, a talented and soft-muscled center, the bud of endless fat jokes, and he stayed that way until two years ago when he decided to do something about his fitness. He dropped 25 pounds during 2019-20 and kept the weight off through the offseason, coming into 2020-21 in excellent shape. He went on to win last year’s MVP Award and is Fadeaway World’s frontrunner to win the MVP again this season, with some of the best advanced stats we’ve ever seen.

Like Durant, Iverson, Jokic, and hundreds of other NBA players before him, Zion doesn’t have the body he needs to perform at peak level, but he’ll almost certainly hit that ah-ha moment in the near future. If he somehow doesn’t get in shape, he’d be one of the first young All-Stars in the association’s history to throw away his career because he couldn’t say no to a hamburger and an ice cream.

The good news is; Zion knows he has work to do:

“I do think there is another gear that I can reach regarding my weight and conditioning,” Williamson said back in March. “But I think it’s like you said, it’s finding it. Because I don’t want to get to a spot where I’m like, ‘Yeah I lost a lot of weight, but I don’t feel strong. I can’t do certain things I would do before.’ I think it’s just finding it. I do think there is another gear I can reach regarding both weight and conditioning.”

He doesn’t want to lose weight just to lose weight. He wants to keep his strength and increase his wind.

A healthy, motivated, and in-shape Zion would instantly push the Knicks to contender status behind a starting frontcourt featuring RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Mitchell Robinson that would be tops in the Eastern Conference.

In his third season, RJ Barrett is averaging 18.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 35.4% from deep while flashing top-scoring-option skills. He hasn’t put it all together yet, but he’s got the entire bag, with drives to the rim, off-the-dribble mid-range shots, and deep finesse. Things have been a slog in New York this season on offense with Julius Randle’s struggles, Derrick Rose’s injury, and Kemba Walker’s in-and-out of the lineup mayhem, but you just need to watch Barrett for a handful of games to see the potential dripping out of him.

Williamson is an unstoppable force of nature in the lane, yet he somehow gathers points quietly for a guy who’s walking highlight, like a young LeBron putting up 20 points before the half so effortlessly it felt like he had a dime at most. Zion can absolutely be the best player on a championship squad, a guy who’s inside gravity sucks in at least two defenders at all times, opening the floor for his teammates to attack and get buckets.

Mitchell Robinson is one of the best defensive centers in the league. He’s an inside-out menace contesting 8.2 shots (nearly all at the rim) and deflecting 1.9 balls nightly in just 25.4 minutes. He’s also holding his assignments to 44.4% from the field, one of the best numbers out of all NBA centers.

Barret, Williamson, and Mitchell would fit together perfectly, with Robinson covering Zion’s defensive deficiencies and the Pelicans’ current big man opening up space on offense for his frontcourt teammates to attack the rim.

In the backcourt, the Knicks could offer Derrick Rose and Evan Fournier in the starting lineup, two players who complement each other well. Rose is the rim slasher, and Fournier is the outside marksman.

We saw how well the combination of Randle, Barrett, Robinson, and Rose performed last year for the Knicks as they finished the regular season a surprising 41-31. Imagine what New York could do with Zion in, replacing Randle. It’d be memorable.

Zion Williamson will find his way out of New Orleans, and when he does, he should go to New York where he’d be able to help bring the Knicks their first title in what feels like forever, building a Hall-of-Fame legacy at the same time. 


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