NEW ORLEANS — A historic week for the New Orleans Pelicans got here to a peak Thursday night when common supervisor David Griffin and the entrance workplace selected Zion Williamson with the No. 1 total decide within the 2019 NBA draft.
“We had a somewhat eventful night,” stated Griffin, the group’s govt vice chairman of basketball operations, as he plopped down at a brief dais arrange within the Pelicans media room.
It had, in spite of everything, been a protracted day.
An hour earlier, Griffin had been seated round a desk with coach Alvin Gentry, scouts and different members of the Pelicans’ entrance workplace of their short-term “struggle room” phoning into New York Metropolis. The room erupted into cheers and sharing of excessive fives when the Williamson decide was lastly made.
“We’re [beginning to] crescendo now,” Griffin stated. “I believe it is just going to proceed to develop.”
Choosing Williamson first was a predictable transfer, however a win the smarting Pelicans desperately wanted.
It has been a riotous few months for the franchise. Anthony Davis, their finest participant, publicly requested a commerce in February. The transfer despatched the group right into a tailspin. Days after then-general supervisor Dell Demps did not ship off Davis by the February commerce deadline, he was fired. The Pelicans then stumbled to an ungainly finish of the season.
New blood got here alongside. A brand new head of basketball operations took the helm, and the Pelicans earned the No. 1 decide within the draft. Griffin agreed to commerce Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in trade for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and a plethora of draft picks.
After all, Griffin couldn’t tackle any of these strikes as a result of the commerce can’t be official till July 6, and speaking about dealing Davis to L.A. would violate NBA guidelines. However all of the sudden, the eye New Orleans was getting shifted from pity and concern to awe: a once-in-a-generation star was on the way in which to the Huge Straightforward.
“Successful that second was a watershed second for us as a franchise,” Griffin stated of the lottery.
All week, the town had been abuzz. Candles with Williamson depicted as a saint started popping up across the French quarter. The maitre d’ at Commander’s Palace — a famed culinary vacation spot right here — proudly advised diners they’d missed Williamson by solely a few days. And on Thursday, hundreds of followers, wearing Pelicans’ purple, packed Manning’s Sports activities Bar able to shoot streamers into the sky.
New Orleans’ draft night time grew to become much more profitable when Griffin agreed to flip the No. four decide the group acquired from the Lakers for the Atlanta Hawks’ No. eight, No. 17 and No. 35 picks. Within the package deal for the No. four slot, the Pelicans additionally agreed to ship Solomon Hill to the Hawks, which created extra wage cap area for New Orleans. In response to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Griffin now has $31 million to spend on free brokers.
Minutes after information of the commerce circulated on Twitter, “David Griffin” started trending in New Orleans. Nonetheless, the largest transfer of the night time was selecting Williamson.
“One of many very first issues I stated to our employees in our first assembly was, ‘Somebody make the case to me for Zion Williamson,'” Griffin stated. “They thought I used to be kidding. I stated no critically, speak me into Williamson and it took some time for anybody to formulate phrases. It’s arduous for folks to precise it.”
Though it was removed from a shock choice, Williamson teared up within the interview instantly after his title was known as by commissioner Adam Silver.
“Oh you’ll be able to hear folks say issues like, ‘Oh, that it was seemingly I used to be going to go No. 1,’ however I assume you do not know till you truly undergo it,” Williamson advised reporters in New York. “Listening to my title known as and I used to be in a position to make it on stage and not using a tear, shake the commissioner’s hand, however within the interview with my mother standing beside me, and my feelings simply took over.”
Ten miles away from the Pelicans’ struggle room arrange, hundreds of followers wearing purple braved the sweltering 91-degree warmth to cheer on
Williamson — who has drawn comparisons to a younger LeBron James — might not remodel the franchise in a single day. In any case, he’s simply 18 years previous.
“That is Jrue Vacation’s group,” Griffin stated. “Zion goes to be studying how one can win at a extremely excessive stage. In some unspecified time in the future, if there’s a time that the baton will get handed by way of who is predicted to hold us to win video games, it is going to. That isn’t now.”
He continued: “Let Zion be that child. Do not write this like he’s right here to save lots of this franchise. He isn’t. He’s right here to affix this household.”
However Williamson’s promise alone has triggered season ticket-holders that have been threatening to stroll away to as an alternative reup their seats and earn the rights to draft him made Gentry get up from his lottery night time seat and yell “F— yeah!” (For the reason that video of the coach hollering went viral, Gentry has been gifted a shirt together with his expletive written on it.)
Williamson’s message to the town was easy: “Let’s dance!”
With that, New Orleans followers on the watch social gathering cheered and opened their arms as if to start to rumba with their new potential franchise participant.