It looks like Zion Williamson will be staying with the New Orleans Pelicans for the foreseeable future. The star forward has agreed to a five-year rookie max contract extension worth up to $231 million with the organization, his agent told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday. The deal will keep Williamson under team control through the 2027-28 season.
Williamson didn't play a single second for the Pelicans last season due to a broken foot. However, given the potential he has shown when healthy -- he averaged 27 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2020-21 -- combined with how much the organization has invested in him, it seemed like a near-certainty the Pelicans would offer him an extension. And while there was some speculation regarding Williamson's desire to remain in New Orleans long-term, he did his best to quell any doubt in recent months. In April, Williamson made it clear he planned to sign an extension with the Pelicans if offered.
"Of course. Of course. I wouldn't be able to sign it fast enough,"at the time, before uttering some words that had to sound like music to the ears of Pelicans fans: "I can't control rumors and how people feel about certain things, but anybody that knows me knows I want to be here."
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He doubled down on that stance last month, too. "I do want to be here. That's no secret,"of New Orleans in June. "I feel like I've stood on that when I spoke. It was a long year for me for rehab and mental battles. I'm fine now. I'm ready to get to work."
After the way the Pelicans performed without him last season, there's real reason for Williamson to be genuinely enthusiastic about the team's future. After starting the season 1-12, they rallied and were ultimately able to claim the eighth seed in the West, and they pushed the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to six games in the first round. In addition to established stars Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the Pelicans also got major contributions from a trio of promising rookies in Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado. Given this backdrop, Williamson is understandably excited about the team's future.
"It sucked watching from the sideline, but I got to see our potential," he said. "We've got a lot of great pieces, and I'm excited to get on the court with those guys. ... You saw it on the court. We have a special group. I truly believe that. ... I'm one of those people that believes the more your team wins, the more individual awards will come. So, with a special group, a coach like Willie [Green], I think a lot of great things will happen."
Now that he's locked up long-term, the next step for Williamson will be remaining healthy as he's actually missed more games than he's played in at this point in his career. If he's able to get right and stay out on the court, the Pelicans will have an opportunity to develop into a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.