Pelicans, Zion and a weighty issue under control

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Pelicans forward Zion Williamson
(Photo: Stephen Lew).

Over the past two months, I have been working out with more regularity. The rationale has a smidge of vanity to the cause.

Who doesn’t want to look better?

That is even more applicable to those of us with a progressing aging process.

While that part is certainly true, the primary focus of the efforts is to lose weight, get in better shape, to feel better and to have a better quality of life.

Athletes deal with the concept of staying in great shape, feeling good and having a better quality of a career daily.

That is particularly true on the professional level, for those in the midst of careers.

It is a common practice for some professional teams to have mandatory weigh-in sessions, even on a weekly basis.

That is part of the process.

In his rookie season of 2019-20, Zion Williamson played in 24 games. He missed 48 games that season.

In his second season of 2020-21, Williamson played in 61 games but missed 21 games.

Then came the 2021-22 season.

The Pelicans played 82 regular season games.

Then came a play-in game with San Antonio, followed by another play-in game with the Clippers.

Then came a playoff series with Phoenix.

In all, the Pelicans played 90 games.

Williamson played in none of those games.

The math is clear.

In three seasons in the NBA, Williamson has played in 85 games played by his team.

In those three seasons in the league, Williamson has missed 159 games.

That math equals a measly total of 34.8 percent of games played by Zion since he entered the league.

The move to include a weight clause in Williamson’s new max five-year deal with New Orleans worth at least $193 million with the possibility to rising to as much as $231 million if Zion meets incentives was wise for both parties.

The incentives are clear.

Williamson can make more money if he makes an All-NBA team or wins a major award next season.

The Pelicans incentive is to win more with a healthy Zion on floor.

The clause is not a weighty one.

While Williamson is listed at 284 pounds, the truth of his weight is not truly known and has obviously fluctuated in mild to even substantive fashion during his stay in New Orleans.

Williamson just turned 22 on July 6.

Sometimes, we forget just how young he is.

The maturing process is occurring right before our eyes.

That process involves all eyes constantly drawn to his physique as so much of whether New Orleans is a successful, viable, championship-contending franchise rests on the physique of Williamson and his ability to maintain it properly and stay on the floor with regularity.

We all know what Williamson is when he is on the floor.

Zion is a freak of nature, a huge man with huge, quick leaping ability, a good handle and enormously strong.

When he has played, Williamson has averaged 25.7 points, seven rebounds and 3.2 assists in the league while shooting over 60 percent from the field.

Williamson can score on big defenders and he can score on small defenders.

He can flat out score and the Pelicans need him to score more by being on the floor as the core player of a blossoming franchise.

There is no controversy or argument to be made about the weight clause, no room for pause. It is the right move for the cause.

Williamson and his agent clearly agreed to it.

The Pelicans are holding Zion accountable for his girth or the lack, thereof. The experience of the last year has given birth to a new approach and outlook for Williamson, who now has a personal trainer and a personal chef. The young man is not tone deaf to the criticism he has received.

Williamson is holding himself accountable.

The weight clause protects the Pelicans and it protects a very talented, likeable young man against himself.

The weight issue will be a career-long battle for Williamson but it is a battle he can win.

If Williamson wins that battle, the Pelicans will win games and ultimately, based on the way the organization is trending under David Griffin, Trajan Langdon and Willie Green, the Pelicans could truly enter the discussion is a team that could contend for championships.

That, of its own volition, is a weighty thought to ponder.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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