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Pelicans face millionaire decision with Zion Williamson

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METAIRIE, Louisiana – Zion Williamson says he won’t hesitate to sign a contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer. There is also no certainty that they will offer it.

And that’s the $200 million — give or take — question for the Pelicans in the offseason: whether to offer the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft a lucrative extension that would go into effect at the start of the 2023-2024 season, or take a risk and see if the player is healthy enough to contribute to a team that believes it has a bright future.

“When it’s time to have this (the conversation), we will,” Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said. “Right now our priority is for him to be healthy and in elite condition to play basketball, and we’ll go from there. It seems to me that when we get to that point, all those conversations will be much easier.”

Williamson appeared in 24 games as a rookie, then 65 in his second season and none this season, as the Pelicans overcame a 1-12 start to finish 36-46. They later won two games in the playoff minitournament and reached the Western Conference quarterfinals.

The player has had problems with a knee, his weight has caused concern and a broken foot was the problem this season.

“I couldn’t sign her fast enough,” Williamson said when asked if he would agree to an extension to his contract.

It’s a big decision for the Pelicans, who obviously would like to integrate a player of Williamson’s tremendous caliber into the core of a team that extended its postseason series against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to six games.

There is great excitement in New Orleans about the team’s performance and future, and with good reason.

“There are no words to describe my excitement,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said Friday at the team’s end-of-season meeting before it dispersed this summer. “I’m ready to go back to work.”

The question is when Williamson will be able to return to the courts.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft and an All-Star last season said Friday that he could have been part of the Pelicans’ lineup late in the season, but that he and the organization “decided that durability was better than rushing back.”

Williams spoke to the press for the first time since Press Day in September. His silence raised questions about whether she was uncomfortable in New Orleans.

“I can’t control the rumours,” Williamson said. “Everyone who knows me knows that I want to be here.”

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