Zion has been in Pelicans’ facility ‘more than he has in his entire career,’ Griffin says

Zion has been in Pelicans' facility 'more than he has in his entire career,' Griffin says

The culprit in the New Orleans Pelicans’ second-half collapse last season was a familiar one: injuries.

The Pelicans sunk from the top of the Western Conference to ninth place because of the amount of time key players missed. All-Star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram sat out a combined 90 games.

The frustration over a promising season fizzling out was part of what prompted changes to the Pelicans’ sports and performance team over the summer. Aaron Nelson, the team’s Vice President of Player Care and Performance for four years, was let go.

“What we tried to do this offseason was not sit there and say, ‘Wow, if we could just be healthy, we could be really good,’” executive vice president David Griffin said Tuesday in an address at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club luncheon. “Because hope is not a plan. But Mrs. (Gayle) Benson gave us the financial bandwidth to address this in different ways. We came at it from the medical side. We did some very different things there.”

The Pelicans have yet to announce who will be in charge of the sports and performance team in the upcoming season. However, Griffin said Tuesday that the team had hired a physical therapist to join the staff and that several players have remained in New Orleans this summer to focus on coming into this season in the best possible condition.

“I can tell you Zion Williamson has been in our gym more than he has in his entire career in the offseason,” Griffin said. “He has been in New Orleans virtually all offseason, which is different.”

Williamson led the Pelicans to an 18-8 start to last season, but he injured his right hamstring in the Pelicans’ first game of 2023. He missed the final 45 games of the season, a stretch in which New Orleans went 19-26.

In July, Williamson said in an appearance on Gilbert Arenas’ podcast that he takes responsibility for the conditioning issues that have been related to the amount of games he has missed.

“There are a lot of things I could have done better,” Williamson said. “I didn’t. I’m in the process of fixing those wrongs.”

Griffin said he has seen progress from Williamson this summer.

“He has on his own done a lot of work in that space,” Griffin said. “He has put a lot of time into that. For us, we have certainly learned over the years what we think works and doesn’t work. But a huge part of that is incumbent on him. A huge part of that is, ‘Is he willing to do what it takes to be successful?’

“I think oftentimes, the people you put around a player are judged for their lack of effectiveness when in reality not everyone is giving the same amount. He has reached a point where he recognizes that and is embracing doing his part.”

Williamson and Ingram have played in 93 games together since they became teammates in 2019. They have appeared in just 12 games together since Willie Green became New Orleans’ coach two years ago.

“We know we have a group that is talented enough,” Griffin said. “We have a group that has the ability. That has the bones of being a good team. What we also know is we haven’t found a way to put it all together. I think what we need to do is continue to work towards that. And if we get to a point where we’re not going to be able to move forward with the group we have, I feel like we are really blessed from an ownership standpoint. There won’t be an impediment to making us better.

“But I think everyone has learned from what we have gone through. We played really high-leverage games often coming down the stretch. This whole group has grown in a crucible where winning matters. We really think that’s going to pay dividends.”


About Mary Weyand 34578 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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