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The Pelicans Need to Get Rid of David Griffin Before Zion Williamson Forces His Way Out

Liam McKeone
David Griffin
David Griffin / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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The New Orleans Pelicans hired David Griffin in the aftermath of the Anthony Davis debacle in 2019. He was the man who watched as Adam Silver revealed the franchise had leapt several spots in the draft lottery and earned the right to draft Zion Williamson. There was much rejoicing.

That is the only good thing that's happened to the Pelicans under Griffin's tenure. In the two seasons since, the organization has been rife with controversy and not-so-quiet rumblings that Zion and his family are not pleased with how the Pelicans have handled his young NBA career. Griffin is on his third coach in three seasons. Zion has yet to take the court this year with a mysterious injury that was announced weeks out from the season opener despite being a problem all offseason.

In short, all the signs of dysfunction are there. The latest proof of that comes from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who detailed a confrontation between Griffin and former Pelicans head coach David Gentry, now with the Sacramento Kings, that nearly came to blows:

While New Orleans projected optimism about competing for a postseason berth during the Orlando bubble, Gentry and a large portion of Pelicans staffers were already prepared for the coach's ouster, sources said, as Griffin was widely known to covet Ty Lue, who was the head coach in Cleveland when Griffin served as the general manager for LeBron James' 2016 championship team. Griffin would often tell team and other league officials that he'd given Gentry "all the answers to the test, and he still fails," sources confirmed to B/R.

After the Kings defeated the Pelicans 113-109 on Oct. 29, Griffin approached Gentry in the bowels of Smoothie King Center to offer a warm hello to his former head coach, yet Gentry brushed off his initial efforts as inauthentic.

Gentry responded with his own choice words, noting how his eventual replacement, Stan Van Gundy, who was also fired after one season in New Orleans, finished just one game better (31-41) than the Pelicans did under Gentry (30-42) the year he was let go. "You must not have given Stan the answers to the test, either," Gentry shouted at Griffin, according to multiple sources, and the two men had to be physically separated.

This alone is not a fireable offense, even if it paints Griffin in a particularly bad light. But it's not the first bizarre report we've heard about Griffin's actions with the organization; a rumor made the rounds recently that Griffin tried to make amends with the team's young superstar by playing him piano. All parties involved denied that, and if it was the only report of its ilk concerning a negative relationship between team and player, it would be nothing. But when there's smoke... you know the rest.

When paired with his actual on-the-court decisions, it's abundantly clear the Pelicans need to fire Griffin right now before more damage is done. Last offseason was an abject disaster for Griffin and New Orleans. They sent out Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade, which seemed to be what he wanted, so we can't blame Griffin entirely. But in return, all the Pelicans got were two backups and a second-round pick.

Griffin tried to fill Ball's absence by sending out a first-round pick for Devonte Graham and then signing him to a four-year, $47.3 million deal. This is bad for all sorts of reasons. The Charlotte Hornets had no intention of keeping Graham with their own ascending Ball brother on the roster, yet Griffin offered up a first-round pick for the right to pay Graham. The point guard is currently averaging 15.9 points per game on 37.3 percent shooting from the floor and offers nothing on defense.

Then there's Griffin's obsession with trading for big centers that don't mesh well with Zion and giving said centers a big extension without seeing them play with Zion. He did it with Steven Adams last year and did it again with Jonas Valančiūnas this offseason. Zion can't play center full-time and a lineup with just him and no other traditional bigs should absolutely be a break-in-case-of-emergency plan in must-win games. But Griffin didn't need to give Adams $35 million or Valančiūnas $30.1 million to eat up minutes. Those contracts were an egregious misuse of resources.

In fact, it is hard to find even one positive move Griffin has made while in charge that has undoubtedly benefitted the team. Zion was quite literally the luck of the draw, and Brandon Ingram was there before Griffin came in. His big moves have been net negatives. New Orleans has yet to make it out of the draft lottery. And, crucially, he doesn't appear to have a good relationship with the star that can save this franchise.

Griffin has to go. Now. Before it's too late.

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