If there was an attempt to pump the brakes on the idea of Zion Williamson to the Pelicans with the No. 1 pick, the Duke superstar's stepfather cut those brake lines Thursday morning.
Speaking on ESPN 104.5, Lee Anderson said the idea of his stepson returning to college is "nothing we have even considered," an answer that drew rave reviews from hosts T-Bob Hebert and Jordy Culotta on their program "Off The Bench."
"We’re excited about that. One thing that Zion has always been taught: You accept the things that you can’t change, you change the things that you can change. And this is one of the things that he had nothing to do with," Anderson said. "It’s the process of the NBA and certainly we’re excited about the Crescent City down there in New Orleans."
On Wednesday, rumors began circulating that the 18-year-old South Carolina native might go back to Duke to avoid landing in New Orleans. ESPN's Brian Windhorst suggested it could be a possibility, as Williamson has not yet signed with an agent or inked a shoe deal, leaving his amateur status intact.
The Pelicans are REALLY excited about Zion - is he excited back? Brian Windhorst says he has “options” if he isn’t; I make the case (again) that Nee Orleans is actually the best U.S. city anyway. pic.twitter.com/CcrNpLP4To— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 15, 2019
The rumors threw some cold water on the blaze of excitement as fans and others imagined the high-flying Williamson taking to the Smoothie King Center. Even Saints coach Sean Payton got in on the act, sharing an image of the 6-foot-8, 285-pound forward in a Saints jersey. Former Saints tight end Benjamin Watson later confirmed the image was really his body below Williamson's photoshopped head.
But Anderson explained why there haven't been any deals yet, highlighting that being patient and making the right decisions are the primary goals. He made no reference to amateur status in his explanation.
“We just feel there’s no real rush to do this right now. We just want to make sure. You don’t get many opportunities in life to have the leverage and the opportunity to control your own narrative," Anderson said. "So therefore we feel like we are in position right now to do that. ... We don’t want to look back and have regrets about it, we just want to make sure that we do it right.”
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The Pelicans bucked the odds Tuesday evening and won the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft despite having just a 6 percent chance. The New York Knicks, a presumed favorite landing spot for Williamson, landed the No. 3 pick despite being tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns with the top odds.
Hebert offered a quick and excited answer to Anderson's news:
"Lee, I love you! I’m so happy right now. I can not wait," he said. "The city’s going to love him. We’re already talking about him doing Who Dat chants at the Saints games. We cannot wait, man. The hope revolving around the Pelicans right now thanks to Zion, it’s kind of incredible."
Even David Griffin couldn’t keep up with the pace at which his franchise’s fortunes changed Tuesday night inside the Hilton Chicago.
The Memphis Grizzlies also jumped up to No. 2 in the draft lottery, while the Los Angeles Lakers leapt to No. 4. The lottery reveal was greeted with disbelief and awe by Pelicans staff and fans, who suffered through a trying season that included superstar Anthony Davis requesting a trade mid-season.
The Pelicans haven't selected higher than No. 6 in any draft since 2012, when they also earned a surprise lottery victory and drafted Davis No. 1 overall.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was particularly demonstrative, jumping from his seat in a room with other team representatives and yelling "f*** yeah" as the news was announced. He gave aggressive high-fives to the others in the room before apologizing and returning to his seat.
Alvin Gentry isn't always the most excitable guy, but you wouldn't have known that on Tuesday evening.
The opposite feeling was true for Knicks fans, however, with video clips showing disgust at being dropped to the No. 3 pick despite having the league's worst record.
In a video on ESPN, one man tells the camera: "We were the worst team in in the NBA. We deserved to be rewarded."
Despite Anderson's assurances that Williamson isn't bound for Round 2 with the Blue Devils, the Pelicans can't sign the checks just yet. Rumors abound that he still could opt to go the route of other big-name players in telling the franchise with the top pick he will not play for them. New Orleans native Eli Manning is one of the most notable names to play that card, telling the San Diego Chargers in 2004 he would not play there. They opted to draft him anyway at No. 1 overall, but he was immediately traded to the New York Giants, where he has played the past 15 years.
Do you believe in Ping-Pong balls?
But Anderson, who said Williamson was listening to the talk after finishing a dental appointment, said he'd spoken to Gentry and executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin about their future, and made it clear what the plans were.
“We’re excited about the prospects of coming down there and getting settled and looking for a place to stay and all these good things,” he said.
To listen to the full interview from ESPN 104.5, click here.