NBA

Zion not selected to be Pelicans 'saviour'

By Sports Desk June 21, 2019

David Griffin says the New Orleans Pelicans are "Jrue Holiday's team" and he is not relying on Zion Williamson to "be the saviour of this franchise".

Former Duke star Williamson - widely considered the top prospect of recent years - was selected first overall by the Pelicans in Thursday's NBA Draft.

The 18-year-old's arrival in New Orleans prompted excitement among supporters, who are set to see key man Anthony Davis depart for the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade.

But executive vice president of basketball operations Griffin is not asking Williamson to single-handedly rescue the Pelicans, who missed the playoffs last season amid off-court drama with the wantaway Davis.

Griffin is instead happy to hand former Philadelphia 76ers guard Holiday the reins for the time being.

"This is not somebody who is supposed to be the saviour of this franchise," he told reporters of Williamson. "That's not what this is.

"This is a 19-year-old kid [Williamson turns 19 in July], who's going to spend this year learning how to play winning NBA basketball.

"This is Jrue Holiday's team. Zion is going to be part of learning how to win at a really high level.

"And, at some point, if there's a time when the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That's not now.

"This is a 19-year-old kid. We're going to take time with this."

But Griffin was still happy to talk up Williamson's impressive attributes, adding: "Physically, he's touched by the hand of God to play this game.

"He's a population of one. Nobody really has ever been exactly quite like him.

"People use a lot of big names, a lot of Hall of Fame names, but nobody has ever had his exact combination of size, explosiveness, lateral quickness, ability to defend multiple positions and willingness to do what it takes to win."

And despite Griffin's urge for caution, Williamson insists he is ready to step into a leadership role in New Orleans.

"Yeah, I see myself trying to step into a leadership role," he said.

"When I think about doing that, I have to also understand my team-mates and understand where their heads are at. If you're not on the same page, things don't usually go well.

"I think it's a matter of us coming together, making the same goals and just willing to win, and I think we can do something special."

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