Zion Williamson wants Lonzo Ball to return to New Orleans: ‘I hope he stays’

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The New Orleans Pelicans enter the upcoming offseason with lots of questions following a disappointing and frustrating season. Near the top of that list will be the impending restricted free agency of Lonzo Ball.

After a second consecutive year of vast improvements behind the 3-point line, Ball is set for fascinating negotiations as the Pelicans look to shape their team around All-Stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Interestingly, that pairing has been two of the most vocal supporters of Ball all season long and that continued on Monday as Williamson, in his exit interview with the media, voiced his desire to have Ball back in New Orleans next season.

“It’d be dope,” he said. “I think me, Brandon and Zo, the three of us, we have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back and he knows that. But like I said, the reality of the situation is, Zo’s a grown man so he’s going to make the decision that’s best for him. The only thing I can say is I hope he stays.”

Over the last two seasons, Ball and Williamson have spent 1,634 minutes on the court together, the second-most minutes Williamson has shared the court with any one player behind Ingram’s 1,667 minutes. Last season, the pairing had a plus-9.8 net rating before finishing with a plus-3.8 net rating this season.

That trio of Ball, Williamson and Ingram has spent 1,302 minutes together on the court the last two seasons, sporting a plus-11.3 net rating in 2019-20 and a plus-4.3 net rating in 2020-21.

To retain Ball with the current roster as well as fellow restricted free agent Josh Hart, the Pelicans would likely have to enter the luxury tax for the first time in the franchise’s history. While David Griffin revealed on Monday that ownership would be willing to go into the luxury tax in the right circumstances, determining whether Ball is a part of those circumstances this summer will be a big decision.