New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson reiterated his desire to be with the organization, speaking Saturday at a local YMCA where he held a youth and basketball camp registration.
Speaking to reporters, Williamson was asked if opening the camp was a sign he wanted to stay in New Orleans.
“I do want to be here. That’s no secret. I feel like I’ve stood on that when I spoke,” Williamson said to reporters at the Dryades YMCA in New Orleans. “Currently, this does not really have anything to do with that. This is just me wanting to be a pillar in my community.”
On May 26, the Pelicans cleared Williamson to return to play without restrictions as he continues in his rehab from a broken right foot that cost him the entire 2021-22 season. Williamson has been working out in New Orleans along with several other Pelicans since then.
“It was a long year for me for rehab and mental battles. I’m fine now. I’m ready to get to work,” Williamson said.
Williamson said he’ll spend the rest of the summer working out preparing for 2022-23 while also taking a week or two to himself before the season starts.
Also on the table this summer could be a potential five-year, $186 million max rookie extension with New Orleans. The Pelicans could look to add protections into the deal instead of just giving Williamson the completely guaranteed max, but those negotiations will happen this summer.
When asked about the extension, Williamson flashed a big smile and said, “You have to ask the Pels, baby.”
Williamson said he hasn’t been paying too much attention to the ongoing NBA Finals, instead focusing on his workouts with his teammates who are in town.
“Pels in the first round. That’s all I needed to see to really be excited to get back out there,” said Williamson, referencing the Pelicans’ first-round series against Phoenix after winning two play-in games. “It was exciting to see young players. Jose [Alvarado], Trey [Murphy III], Herb [Jones], Jaxson [Hayes]. Just blossoming into players I knew they could be and they knew they could be. Then watching [Brandon Ingram]. The name speaks for itself. Then CJ [McCollum] being added, it was something to watch. The fans made it so much better.”
Williamson addressed the campers present and expressed how important it was for him collaborate with a local YMCA.
“When I was a kid, after school, buses pick kids up and take them home. I got on the YMCA bus. My mom wouldn’t get off work ’til a certain time,” Williamson said. “I would be at the YMCA from like 3:30 to like 6, 7 sometimes. I did that for about five, six years.
“The summer camp aspect of it, that’s how I fell in love with the game of basketball. When I was 4. When I was 5. When I first met my stepfather. We was just in the gym from 9 to 5. It was not all physical activities. It was teaching, learning. Learning how to carry yourself as a man, a woman. That’s why me being here doing all this, that’s why it’s special for me.”