Zion Williamson calls New York 'the Mecca of basketball,' says he 'loves playing here'

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Coby Green
·3 min read
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Zion Williamson and Julius Randle embrace after Knicks win over Pelicans
Zion Williamson and Julius Randle embrace after Knicks win over Pelicans

The smile on Zion Williamson's face when he was asked about playing in New York should put Knicks fans on high alert.

After the Knicks beat Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans in overtime on Sunday, he was asked about his first experience playing in Madison Square Garden as a pro -- and he didn't hold back.

"New York is the Mecca of basketball," Williamson said with a huge smile across his face -- after the loss. "I love playing here. I played here in college, and this is my first time playing here in the pros. This atmosphere, whether they're cheering for you or booing for you, it's amazing.

"Honestly, I think outside of New Orleans, obviously, I think this might be my favorite place to play outside of New Orleans. I can't even lie to you, can't lie to you."

Talk about throwing gasoline onto what was thought to be a dead flame.

Knicks fans haven't really realistically thought of Williamson in a blue and orange jersey since June of 2019, or even May of 2019, for that matter, when the Knicks were tied for the highest odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft -- and the rights to take Williamson with that pick.

Somehow, the Pelicans were blessed by the basketball gods and saw the ping pong balls bounce their way despite having only the seventh best odds to land the pick, and the rest seemed like history after that.

The Knicks landed at No. 3 and could've maybe tried to trade for that No. 1 pick, but it was very unlikely that New Orleans would ever separate from that opportunity to draft what was considered a generational talent.

But after hearing Williamson's comments, Knicks fans can conjure up some ideas in their heads that may not seem as far fetched as this did earlier Sunday morning.

Williamson can become a restricted free agent after the 2022-23 season, but the talks surrounding him will likely started much before then.

The Pelicans have underachieved since Williamson's arrival despite putting together a solid lineup around him -- one that includes another All-Star in Brandon Ingram and a pass first point guard in Lonzo Ball.

The former 2019 No. 1 overall pick is averaging 26.8 points on 60.5 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, and yet the Pelicans are three games back of the No. 10 seed and a spot in the play-in tournament.

He was injured and had to get used to the NBA for most of his first season, so that year gets a pass, but another season or two like the one currently happening in New Orleans, and their new star might start looking for an exit -- just like their last one did.

But this time, it could be to Mecca of basketball instead of the palm trees of LA.

His college teammate and pal -- and that No. 3 overall pick -- RJ Barrett is already here. Just that playing opportunity alone could be enticing for Williamson in the future, so adding his infatuation with the Garden and New York certainly makes the idea less far fetched.

Of course, the chances of him being traded or the Pelicans not matching any offer sheet he receives in 2023 are slim to none, but that smile makes it hard to not make you wonder...