It turns out Zion Williamson is happy with New Orleans and not going back to Duke

This may be shocking, but it turns out we shouldn’t read into an 18-year-old’s body language when trying to gauge how he feels about his first job out of college.

Much was made of purported No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Zion Williamson’s snickering reaction to Tuesday’s news that the New Orleans Pelicans won the Zion sweepstakes and a report that he would have preferred to play for the New York Knicks, who landed the third pick despite entering with the best lottery odds.

While the Pelicans have not explicitly said they will draft Williamson at No. 1, even the Memphis Grizzlies, who finished second in the lottery, are working under that assumption. They have already told Murray State sophomore point guard Ja Morant’s camp that they intend to draft him, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Within 24 hours of the Pelicans getting their shot at Williamson, who may well save the NBA franchise in New Orleans, either as the replacement for disgruntled superstar Anthony Davis or the reason he stays, we were even reminded that Zion has yet to hire an agent or sign a shoe contract. Technically, that means he can still withdraw from the draft by June 10 and return to Duke for his sophomore season.

Duke's Zion Williamson is interviewed by ESPN during the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday. (AP)
Duke's Zion Williamson is interviewed by ESPN during the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday. (AP)

With the caveat that, “People that I know who know him say no, that this is not who he is,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Wednesday’s edition of “The Jump” that the possibility of Williamson returning to Duke is “a conversation that’s happening in the NBA right now” and one that was “blowing up my phone since last night.”

It turns out all it took was someone speaking to Zion’s stepfather to clear that up.

As brought to our attention by Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan, Williamson’s stepdad, Lee Anderson, told a Baton Rouge radio show on Thursday that Zion is “excited” about playing in New Orleans and has not considered returning to Duke.

“We’re excited about that,” Anderson told the ESPN Radio affiliate’s “Off the Bench” show. “One thing that Zion has always been taught is that you accept the things that you can’t change and you change the things that you can change, and this is one of the things that he had nothing to do with. It’s the process of the NBA, and certainly we’re excited about the Crescent City down there in New Orleans.”

As for Duke, Anderson added, “There has been a lot of speculation, but that is nothing that we have even considered.” They had productive conversations with Pelicans general manager David Griffin and coach Alvin Gentry on Tuesday and Wednesday. The family is already making plans to call New Orleans home.

This news was soon met with a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that Williamson had even mentioned to those close to him that the Pelicans were a preferred destination to start his career as a potential face of the franchise.

Maybe we don’t rush to pour water on a kid’s future and a city’s excitement next time. At least it didn’t take long for Williamson to learn about the NBA’s rumor mill.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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