Nuccio DiNuzzo/Associated Press
Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, appeared on the Off the Bench radio show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Thursday and said the Duke playmaker is “excited about the prospect of getting down there and getting settled,” (h/t Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune). He also stressed returning to Duke “is not something that we have even considered.”
Duncan noted Anderson also said he already talked to Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry and director of basketball operations David Griffin.
In addition to his stepfather’s comments, Williamson himself reportedly had a “positive meeting” with the Pelicans:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Sources: Zion Williamson met in Chicago with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, the top two teams in the Draft lottery. Williamson had a positive meeting with New Orleans and prior to lottery, he cited Pelicans as a targeted team to start career.
The reassurances to New Orleans come after there was buzz about Williamson potentially returning to Duke.
Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated noted he was “rooting” for the big-market New York Knicks to win Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery and was “quickly whisked out of the room” after New Orleans landed to the top pick.
While Williamson may have been cheering for a spot on New York’s roster, he could have ended up in New Orleans anyway seeing how Shams Charania of Stadium reported the Knicks may have used the No. 1 pick as part of their trade package for Anthony Davis.
What’s more, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Wednesday’s episode of The Jump (3:10 mark) that Williamson “does have some options. I’m not saying he’s going to pick these options, but he has not signed with an agent and he has not signed a shoe deal yet. He could threaten to go back to Duke.”
Returning to Duke apparently wouldn’t have been a bad outcome for Williamson seeing how much he loved his collegiate experience.
He explained as much in an interview with Slam’s Franklyn Calle: “You get this college experience once. If you’re in a situation like mine, where you’re one and done, I’m just trying to make the most of what I got. I love Duke, and honestly, I don’t want to leave. If I didn’t have as much at stake, I probably would stay for another year. But I can’t.”
Williamson thrived in that one collegiate season and averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks a night while winning the Naismith Award, Wooden Award, ACC Player of the Year and consensus All-American status.
The Blue Devils’ season ended before the Final Four with an Elite Eight loss to the Michigan State Spartans, so there may have been some motivation to return and pursue a championship beyond just leverage with the Pelicans.
However, Anderson’s words suggest Williamson is ready for his NBA career to start in New Orleans, meaning the team will have a franchise cornerstone to build around for years to come even if it does trade Davis.