CJ McCollum admitted after the Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason on Wednesday night that he had played through a thumb injury for the past few months that will require offseason surgery. He also said he injured his shoulder injury for a few games that also could require surgery. Still, he didn’t want to miss games and let his teammates down, so he was on the court in the biggest game of the season, giving it his all.
Zion Williamson should take notes.
Zion got in a pregame workout Wednesday and was doing this, and on another play threw down a windmill dunk.
Zion threw down a few dunks during his workout. Made a coupke explosive moves. Even finished it off with a windmill at the end. pic.twitter.com/6WhA0Txi7x
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) April 13, 2023
However, he didn’t suit up to play in the Pelicans’ elimination game Wednesday. Was he still injured?
“Physically, I’m fine,” Zion said Tuesday (via the Associated Press), referring to the right hamstring he injured in January. “Now it’s just a matter of when I feel like Zion.
“I can pretty much do everything, but it’s just a matter of the level that I was playing at before my hamstring,” Zion said. “I don’t want to go out there and be in my own head and affect the team when I can just be on the sideline supporting them more, because I know myself. If I was to go out there, I would be in my head. I would hesitate on certain moves and it could affect the game.”
That plays terribly. But him throwing down Instagram-worthy dunks pregame then sitting out the actual game sums up his career to this point.
When the stakes are high, when the games matter, we as fans expect professional athletes to push through, leading to the legendary moments of sport. Willis Reed coming on the court for the Knicks in Game 7, the Michael Jordan flu game, and so many more (across all sports).
We are not Zion, we don’t know what he is feeling, and nobody should be forced to play through injury. Understandably, the re-injury/setback he had with the hamstring in February led to “a little bit of a mental battle” for the star.
“When I reaggravated it back in February, it was tough. So, when I got to make certain moves, there is that hesitation,” Zion said. “I understand the magnitude of these games coming up and I don’t want to be out there hesitating or doing something that may affect my team in a bad way.”
But that team is not a threat without him. They need him to have a chance, and he knows it.
Zion, McCollum and Brandon Ingram played a total of 172 minutes together this season. It’s the heart of the problem for David Griffin and the New Orleans front office — New Orleans might have one of the NBA’s better teams, but how do they get the three stars on the court together?
Ultimately it may take everyone being a little more like McCollum.