In This Episode
On this episode of Takeline, Jason Concepcion talks to Myles Simmons — a reporter with NBC Sports & Pro Football Talk — about Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension, handed down to him Monday by independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, in a punishment that can still be upended by commissioner Roger Goodell. Jason also talks to New Orleans Pelicans reporter Will Guillory of The Athletic about Zion Williamson’s curious weight clause in his new extension with the team. In this week’s edition of Buzzer Beater, Jason looks back on the Women’s Euro Final and how the English women finally brought the trophy home.
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Jason Concepcion: I watch him and I think I’ve never, ever seen this before, ever. I’ve never seen a guy who looks like he should be tackling the quarterback. It’s a combination of explosiveness, of physical power, of speed, of skill. We’ve never seen it before. I wonder just what’s it like to see him up close?
Will Guillory: Yeah. I mean, I tell people all the time, he is like a rhino in sneakers. That’s what I kind of equate him to. Like, he just. He just hits you and it’s like. And I remember, Jason, we’re talking about a league where these are the greatest athletes in the world. We’re talking about, like I said, some of the biggest human beings you’ll find as I am, puts a shoulder in them and they go flying into the stanchion like they got hit by a car or something.
Jason Concepcion: Hello and welcome to Takeline on this episode. I’ll be talking to Myles Simmons, reporter with NBC Sports and pro football. Talk about Deshaun Watson. Six game suspension handed down to him on Monday by independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson in a punishment that still has the potential to be upended or added to by Commissioner Roger Goodell. I’ll talk to New Orleans Pelicans reporter Will Guillory of The Athletic about Zion Williamson’s contract extension. The addendum in his contract that says he has to stay below a combined body weight and body mass index of 295. And finally in my Buzzer Beater, I will be talking about the rip roaring England women’s win in the Euro final 2022. What a fantastic game. And Sunday that was. All that and more on this week’s take line. Let’s get right into it with Myles Simmons of NBC Sports. Delighted to have Myles Simmons, reporter and writer with NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk. Myles, thank you for joining. Takeline.
Myles Simmons: Thank you for having me. Appreciate you having me on.
Jason Concepcion: So originally we were going to talk Kyler Murray and yes, if he’s gaming too much. But today, the the ruling in the issue of Deshaun Watson came down after former federal judge and NFL disciplinary officer Sue Robinson concluded her ruling. And the ruling is as follows A six game suspension for which obviously Deshaun will lose game checks, but no further fines. That’s it. And this is in the case of the 20 plus women who have accused Deshaun in various forms of wrongdoing stemming from massage sessions that Watson had booked with these individual women. First of all, your thoughts on this ruling and then I’d love to talk about this. The disciplinary officer, which is the first time the NFL has kind of used this discipline kind of judicial structure in levying out fines and or suspensions.
Myles Simmons: Sure. I think the first thought is we don’t have a complete view really of exactly what the ruling is and why. And that’s because as of as we reporting this, that ruling has not been publicized. And I think that’s a problem. Right. I think it was a problem last year when we didn’t get a full picture of the full scope of Wilkinson’s investigation into what are now what is now known as the Washington commander’s right. And if we don’t have a full scope of what the investigation was, what exactly was the evidence that was presented to Judge Robinson and why she went through the process that she went to to get to this decision? I, I understand why. And I’m not I hesitate to sort of say this is I don’t want to sound like I’m defending Shawn Watson because I’m not. But we don’t have a complete picture of what it was that was presented to understand why she came to the decision that she came to. So I, I hesitate to make any judgment one way or the other, because it’s like, well, when we hear in media reports that he was going to say like upwards of 60 plus women. Yeah, inherently that sounds ridiculous.
Jason Concepcion: It sounds crazy.
Myles Simmons: Yeah. For any professional athlete. And, you know, I don’t know, I yeah, I don’t really want that many people touching me. Like I am just a human being who wants to go to a massage therapist like that just seems like an absurd number of people that you would go and visit. But at the same time, yes. Like, apparently, you know, what has been reported that was presented to Judge Robinson was five particular cases. And one of those cases is apparently solely based on media reports. And so that’s why I think it is so important that we see the actual 16 page report that she has written so that we get a full picture and full understanding of why she made the decision. Because for me, it’s hard to say, like what? What do we think? Like, I don’t know because I don’t know. I just don’t know what it was that she was presented and why she made the decision she made.
Jason Concepcion: Let’s talk about how we got here to the formation of this particular position, the disciplinary officer. This came out of the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. In the past, of course, Roger Goodell, in his role as the commissioner, has been highly and roundly criticized for any number of different cases and his handling of those cases. See NFL Created Investigation Unit. There is still criticism. So it seems like this is what the players union and the NFL agreed upon as a way to, one, create something that feels unbiased and is independent of these two powerful factions with with major stakes, obviously, in the way the game is legislated and run. But it also feels like in this particular case and you tell me if I’m wrong as a way to kind of like shirk responsibility. Hey, this is Sue Robinson saying now Goodell still has, if he so chooses to use it, the final word in what the actual discipline would be. But he has at least agreed through collective bargaining to stand by the disciplinary officer. How did we get to this? Place with regards to who doles out suspensions, how long they are. What are the effects of these various incidents that have popped up over the years? How do we get here?
Myles Simmons: I add one thing to to what you were saying, that really, even though there is this independent arbitrator. Right, the ultimate power still resides with Roger Goodell as to whether or not he will. And this is not just in the case of Deshaun Watson, but in all these particular types of disciplinary cases, he still has the ultimate power, whether or not to suspend the player and what that suspension will be. Because if they decide if the NFL decides that it wants to appeal the decision by the independent arbitrator, then that appeal will be heard by either Roger Goodell, who will then make the decision or somebody that Roger Goodell appoints to make the decision. Right. So even though there is some element of the NFL saying that they kind of want to take themselves out of the equation and put it in the hands of somebody who is potentially more unbiased. The NFL still has the ultimate power to enact whatever discipline that it wants to. And I think that that’s pretty important, especially in a situation like this, where the public outcry and the public perception may cause maybe a catalyst for the NFL to want to do something more than what is a six game suspension. But to actually answer your question, you know, how did we get here? Well, I think a lot of it goes back to 2014. And with Ray Rice and with that whole situation that was domestic violence. And everybody really thought that Ray Rice did not get a long enough suspension. And frankly, what’s interesting about that situation is that it kind of ruined his career regardless. Yeah, right. You know, and part of that is because of the position that Ray Rice plays at running back and running backs are a lot easier to find for teams than quarterbacks. Deshaun Watson is, you know, and this is nothing to do with anything that went on off the field. But objectively, he is an elite quarterback. He is somebody that can do things that most people cannot do on the field. And because of that, it’s going to cause NFL teams to tolerate more than what they would from a running back, which is much easier to replace. Yeah, I mean, teams cycle through running backs all the time in the NFL. They don’t do that same thing with quarterbacks. So back in 2014, when the Ray Rice situation happened, there were a lot of people that were really upset about the discipline and how that discipline got enacted. And there are some reports that it almost cost Roger Goodell his job. So when you look at it that way, the NFL went up across the board disciplinary actions and in that last CBA and now they renegotiated the CBA, obviously, as you brought up in 2020 and enacted it. And it’s a way now for the NFL and the NFLPA to have something that they both perceive to be more just, if you will. So we’ll see how that actually works. Right. I mean, this is one of the this is really the first time that this has happened. We’ve actually been able to see it in action. And I don’t know if everybody is going to feel like it’s actually just.
Jason Concepcion: It’s a good point about Watson being a quarterback because I think that, again, a lot of the tension here and stems from the fact that he plays a very important and rare position. And so I wanted to ask you, you mentioned the pay. Let’s talk about the pay here. They they called for Goodell to, you know, or whoever Goodell appoints to please don’t appeal the ruling. Let’s stand by the ruling. Despite the fact that, of course, Goodell does have the final word, according to the CBA, they’ve asked him not to do that. The pay is my perception of the pay, in contrast to, say, like the NBA players union is, the NBA players union is more it’s it rules to the detriment of the top players for the middle class players. Right. They make less top guys make less of the middle guys more, whereas the NFLPA is more to the benefit of the top players and less so to the middle and lower players. You say that’s accurate. And what is that correct? Is that right? What I what I’m thinking?
Myles Simmons: Well, I’m not sure because, look, that’s the fault in getting the CBA enacted back in 2020. The interesting thing was that a lot of the top players did not want this to be ratified and the mid-tier players, the lower tier players, they did. And that’s part of why it was able to be act. And I mean, I remember Aaron Rodgers in particular being one of those guys. I was like, I don’t know about all this guys. Let’s take a step back. Let’s maybe evaluate this and see exactly if this is what we want to do. So. It’s different because there are so many more players in the NFL as well. Yeah, well you’re talking about know you’re going from. Yeah, exactly. Like they’re, they’re 15 players what 15 to 20. Right on.
Jason Concepcion: And they’re 100 ish in the league compared to. Right. Yeah.
Myles Simmons: Yes. And right now they’re 90 players on each NFL roster and they’re 32. So, you know, I’m not really good at math, but like, that’s a lot like what you know. So I think that that’s also that also is a factor.
Jason Concepcion: Talk to us about the the EPA’s role in this and what they are. You know, obviously, they have to support their players. That is what they were created to do. And individual cases can have individual and specific details as horrifying as they might be, you know, in regards to this particular one. But bottom line is they’re looking to make sure their players are protected in a very, very dangerous sport and that their money going forward is protected again in a sport that can really impact quality of life. So what is what are they looking to to get out of one, having this independent arbitrator? And what are they looking at, you know, with regards to their support of Deshaun?
Myles Simmons: Well, I think, you know, it sort of goes back to what we’re talking about before. You’re you’re trying to find some fairness in what can be disciplinary processes. Right. And you don’t just want it to be Roger Goodell and the NFL in particular and perhaps get railroaded in that situation. When you have somebody who is an independent arbitrator, who’s been a federal justice before, then you’re thinking that, okay, this person is someone who can really review facts, really review evidence and come up with something that is, quote unquote fair. Right now, what exactly is fair? In every situation? People can have different definitions of that. Yeah, but you know, the NFLPA, his job really is to support Deshaun Watson. And so they’re trying to get out in front of some stuff here, right. When you release a statement that says, you know, we are going to abide by the arbitrator’s decision and we hope that the NFL can expect the NFL will do so as well, and that now you’re you’re kind of trying to play offense a little bit, and I can understand that from the standpoint, but that that’s not necessarily going to dictate and determine what the league’s decision is going to be, what Roger Goodell’s decision is going to be to say whether or not they’re going to appeal the decision.
Jason Concepcion: While I remember it was not that long ago in sports, watching life where an incident maybe not as bad as this, but something like this would come up and, you know, reporters, talking heads, whoever would have absolutely no qualms about immediately analyzing what the football impact is, irrespective of everything else. What is it like? Like, is it, you know, as a as a reporter, someone who lives in this world, how do you how do you talk about stuff like this where, you know, off the field, life, real life impacts and intersects with football with a game.
Myles Simmons: Yeah, it’s tough. I find it really difficult. I do because I, I don’t ever want to say something completely insensitive because I understand that there are so many fans of this sport that, you know, and I love the sport. I’ve dedicated my career to it, and I think it’s unfair. To say something that dismisses those people. And I don’t ever want to do that. And I understand that this is a highly sensitive topic. So I do I find it difficult. But I think, you know, as I kind of did it earlier, you know, I basically what I try to say is everything off the field notwithstanding like there there’s something that I think you’re right. I’ve watched Shaun Watson play football. I’ve seen him play multiple games. I covered the game of his in 2019 where he got rubber pellets in his eye because, you know, a foot got kicked up into his face and he still threw a touchdown. Like I’ve seen what he can do on the field. And I know that he is an elite football player. And the only thing I think about is that, you know, sometimes we do this thing as reporters where it’s like, gosh, you know, he’s he’s such a good guy. He’s doing this in the community, is doing that in the community. And like the issue with that I’ve always had is that we don’t really know who players are off the field, just like we don’t really always know who anybody is. Yeah, you know, it’s difficult to really assess somebody’s character based on what we know from them, like on the football field or doing a charity event. So with all that being said, I find it difficult and like I said, that I don’t ever want to be insensitive to these issues because they’re real issues. And I think that they are important. And like I said, I just I don’t want to be insensitive to it.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. How does it. I think the world has become, you know, incrementally more thoughtful on issues like this.
Myles Simmons: I like to think so. But some people are still you know.
Jason Concepcion: It’s very obvious whether or not. Yeah. I mean, but I would also add that you’re running it.
Myles Simmons: You’re running.
Jason Concepcion: You know, because like, here’s the thing, right? We’re talking on mikes. This is going to go out. You watch ESPN. Those are all people who are professional, who are paid a great salary to talk about these issues. And when you’re and when you do that on a platform, there’s other kind of language that you kind of have to stay away from, you know, because players have lawyers. Yeah, the NFL has lawyers. Yes, they are powerful lawyers. And so you have to abide by a certain you have to stay within certain guardrails. And it does not necessarily. In many cases. And I would say the Deshaun Watson case is, one, necessarily afford people who speak professionally about sports and about the NFL in particular the latitude to really say what they think. Exactly, in a way. You know what I mean? Like, if we when these mikes go off, we can talk about I mean, all this, you know, obviously these charges, this is a civil litigation that is different from criminal litigation. I personally believe these women, you know, that says nothing about what I think his criminal impacts should be. But you can’t really talk like that when you get on ESPN or pro football talk or anywhere. And I think that makes this really, really difficult, especially when these are highly emotional things to talk about.
Myles Simmons: Yes, yes. Yes. That’s exactly. I mean, you just put that a little more eloquently than kind of what I was trying to say. But yeah, there are yeah, there are legal implications, right? So yeah, it makes it much more difficult.
Jason Concepcion: Let’s transition to something a little bit with a little bit more levity, which is the Kyle Murray situation. Comrie signed a five year extension worth 230 million ish with the Cardinals. And all.
Myles Simmons: Right, I can exhale a little bit now.
Jason Concepcion: But, you know, this should have been a cause for celebration to $3 million. It’s wonderful. But it said had Kyler drill down on a clause in the deal that would hold him to a certain amount of, quote, independent study each week. This seeming to be a reaction to Kayla’s life online playing video games. You know, most in particular, Call of Duty, which he plays a lot. And I found this hilarious one because Kyler really successfully bullied them into taking this out. And two, because I think there’s a generational thing here, which is that I think if you weren’t raised with video games, I think it’s hard for people to understand how a person can, one, do their job successfully or go to school successfully and do the things they need to do to be a person in life, while also playing an amount of video games that maybe an older generation would find not it would find way too much. Your thoughts on the Kyler Murray it divided study clause.
Myles Simmons: Well so it’s interesting because there are I think like a lot of different elements to this and I one of them that I did not initially think about and this is maybe on me and that some people have pointed out now including Warren Moon’s legendary quarterback, is bit like, yeah, is there kind of a racial element to this? And it’s like, well, I can’t just dismiss that. And especially when somebody like Warren says it. And it’s one thing that, like I said, I didn’t initially think about it and I really didn’t because this is a totally unprecedented situation where you have a homework clause where somewhere a quarterback has to in his contract study for at least 4 hours a week, which let me tell you, as somebody who’s covered this league for now, going on nine years, that’s ridiculous, because a quarterback needs to study more than 4 hours per week. Right. Like Aaron, Donald is the best defensive player in the game right now. Probably puts in 4 hours of film study a day. So that kind of tells you right there. And even defensive lineman doesn’t have nearly as much to think about as a quarterback on any given play. So when you look at it that way, it’s like, well, why would the Cardinals feel like they need something like this? This is weird, like just inherently and then, you know, when they take it out, they say, oh, well, this was taken in a way that we didn’t intend to do. I mean, it’s like, well, how in the world are we supposed to perceive it other than like, you’re literally telling me you don’t study enough and we need you to do it, otherwise you’re in default on your contract and we’re taking back all your money. I don’t know how we’re supposed to interpret this in any other way than like we don’t trust our quarterback. And if that’s the case, why are you paying a $160 million guaranteed? It all makes everybody look bad. It’s just very strange.
Jason Concepcion: He Kyler went on a rant that has since gone viral. A rant is maybe too strong, he argued, I think very effectively and eloquently against this addendum, saying in part, and I’m paraphrasing now, you know, I’m 510, you know what I mean? Like, I’m not one of these behemoths out here to think that I could have gotten to this place. Without studying the game is disrespectful. I use the word disrespectful very, very specifically and then said, quote, It’s almost a joke.
Myles Simmons: Yeah. He said, I can’t take any shortcuts, no pun intended, which honestly made me laugh a little bit. So, yeah. And he’s like quoting his high school in Texas record like 43, you know? And it’s like, I could never have made it to this level without being a real student of the game.
Jason Concepcion: Right.
Myles Simmons: Having said but that being said, like, there was clearly some concern from the cardinals in order to do this. And honestly, like I kind of blame his agent because why is the agent not negotiating this out? And why is the agent not saying like, you know, this is unprecedented and once this gets out, it’s going to be a bleep storm like there’s no question about that. So and with based on the way that contracts get filed, somebody is going to see it. Somebody is going to be like, that was always going to happen. So it’s just like I said, it’s a weird situation. It’s a bizarre situation. Fortunately, it’s gone now, I guess, from Tyler’s standpoint. But yeah, I don’t know how like this affects the relationship going forward.
Jason Concepcion: I’m glad you brought that up with the agent because here is my you know, I’m a fan of Game of Thrones. I love scheming. Here’s my scheming take. They knew that this was in there. They knew they were going, are you against it? But they wanted to kind of grab. The Cardinals by the neck a little bit and and maybe establish a little dominance in the relationship. By doing this in the public way that they did. I’m not in any way saying that Kyler does not feel strongly that this was bullshit. Like, clearly he did. But I’m saying, is there any world in which they let this get in there so that they could talk about this in this way?
Myles Simmons: I don’t think so. And I like the theory because as Littlefinger once said, chaos is a ladder.
Jason Concepcion: It is.
Myles Simmons: But I just because it doesn’t make it makes calamari look bad. And now every single time they have a bad performance, like if they start out the season poorly, what is the narrative going to be?
Jason Concepcion: Well, that’s the jokes are going to be jokes. We’re going to be there regardless. But now they’re definitely going to be right.
Myles Simmons: You know, and it was because it was never really oh, Kyler Murray doesn’t study. I mean, there was some stuff that came out on Super Bowl Sunday. Yeah. That was, you know, the anonymous reports like, oh, he’s selfish, he’s a finger pointer, he’s this, he’s that. And he’s not necessarily a really good team player, which, you know, when people are just, you know, espousing that, you know, when you’re about to be in a contract negotiation, that also kind of rubs me the wrong way. I don’t love that kind of, yeah. Anonymous source talk. But now the narrative is always going to be Kyler Murray studying and like, you can’t get rid of that. So unless he, you know, like they go let’s call it 12 and five or 13 and four and they make the playoffs and they actually start winning playoff games. They don’t have that fading, you know, whatever you want to call it that the Kyler Murray teams and Kliff Kingsbury teams have had over their three years together.
Jason Concepcion: Myles, thanks a lot for joining us. This was really fun.
Myles Simmons: Oh, my pleasure. Any time.
Jason Concepcion: [AD].
Jason Concepcion: Delighted to be joined now by Will Guillory Pelicans staff writer with The Athletic will welcome to Takeline.
Will Guillory: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.
Jason Concepcion: Well, Bill Russell passed away at 88 recording this on a monday. News broke on Sunday. I was wondering if you any thoughts about Bill’s titanic impact on the sport and sports in general?
Will Guillory: Yeah, I mean, just an iconic figure in not only the NBA, but in sports in general. You know, the greatest champion in team sports history. Just a guy, you know, who was really the first superstar in the NBA, I believe a guy who was able to take the game to the next level, not just because of his play on his court, but his impact off the court with his philanthropy and being, you know, a black athlete in Boston who really got a lot of that audience to accept. A black athlete being the face of the NBA, I think made such a huge impact on the league because obviously we see where the NBA ended up going with guys like Kareem, Magic Johnson, Jordan, etc., etc.. And Bill Russell was the guy who kind of laid that foundation. So, yeah, just a sad day for the NBA, but I think the great thing was that he was able to live for 88 years and so many guys in the NBA had their moments. I think that’s one of the best things about this is seeing on Instagram, those moments with Magic, with Jordan. Yeah, LeBron being able to tell us.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, that’s so cool.
Will Guillory: Yeah. And he was always there, right? He was sitting courtside at games. He was at the Spurs. He wanted to be there. He embraced people. We all know that, that laugh. And we have the videos of him point in the middle finger at people and stuff. So yeah, I think it was great that he was around as much as he was, you know, during his final years and able to show that personality and what really made him, you know, such an iconic figure in the league.
Jason Concepcion: He told Sport magazine in 1963, quote, There are two societies in this country and I have to recognize it to see life for what it is and not go stark raving mad. I don’t work for acceptance. I am what I am. If you like it, that’s nice. If not, I couldn’t care less. It’s really a bracing thing to think about how controversial a statement that was in 1963, of course, and how courageous it was to say that in the press, while also playing a sport that really at the time did not afford anything like lifetime financial security, like you were not going to be set in 1963 necessarily. You played pro basketball. So for Bill to take the stance that he did to just simply tell the truth, what an amazing human being were, amazing champion. We were saddened to lose him and I think we’re lesser for it. But I think to your point, he gave us so much in those 88 years and an unbelievably full life transitioning from that. I would love to talk about first of all, congratulations on the Pelicans. Let me just say that the pelicans the pivot from oh, my goodness, I’m going to leave. What is going on? There’s all these different machinations from my New York Knicks, from other teams. It seems like they’re going to prime lose JJ Redick criticizing the organization, other people criticizing the way they’ve handled things and message things around Zion in particular, criticizing him for maybe not caring about his team to a wonderful showing in the postseason last year. Some great talent on the team. And all that’s missing, it seemed like, is the incredible talents of one of the most unique athletes that’s ever played professional basketball, Zion Williamson. And here he is. He’s signed a five year, $193 million max extension with the Pelicans recently. If he makes all NBA this season, that could jump to 231 million over five years once certain clauses are triggered. Now, regarding that extension, there is an addendum in there that says that his weight and body fat percentage has to be below 25, first of all. Let’s talk about your reaction to the Pelicans and the extension in particular and let’s talk about that. Interesting wait addendum. Your thoughts about the Pelicans?
Will Guillory: Yeah, it’s crazy because a lot of people say, you know, how much things change over the course of the year. I think you said it right. It hasn’t even been a full year. We’re talking about February when the JJ Redick comments came out about Zion not being a connected teammate and C.J. McCollum being on the inside the NBA broadcasts saying he hadn’t heard from Zion when he was with the Pelicans for like a week. So, yeah, it was not great, you know, that long ago. And, you know, there are a lot of questions about Zion’s commitment, whether he wanted to be around, whether he’d be the first really max level guy to turn down the max rookie extension. So, yeah, I think a lot change very quickly. I think him being away from the team was a huge moment for his career because I think it was not only an opportunity for him to just get healthy. That was the big issue last year is the fact the foot just wouldn’t heal, right? They tried a whole bunch of different something, put a shot in the foot. They tried that, ramping up his activity, stopping his activity and the bone and, you know, the those when you break your foot, those bones, his little bitty bones, you know, you never know how they’re going to react, how quickly they’re going to recover, especially with a guy with his type of body. Yeah. So I think it was really challenging for him. And then also with all of the outside noise, people making the fat jokes, people talking about him not being committed to the team, I think it was a real mental challenge for him and he talked about that and the last season just needing to get away, just to kind of get away from all of the noise, all the the spotlight. And I think just seeing what the team was able to do during the playoffs, you know, being as emergence C.J. coming in and embracing the city the way he did, I think he kind of looked around and was like, Man, this is a great situation. You know, this is a these are a city behind the team. And he was like, Wow, I really like what they’re building here. I want to be a part of this. So I think he got to give a lot of credit to David Griffin for what he did over the course of one season. You know? Yeah, fixing the Stan Van Gundy mistake, fixing the Lonzo Ball mistake and building up this team and hiring Willie Green, who I think is the second part of this that has to be mentioned.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Really connected to the team and you could tell you can tell in the way that they respond to him that he is the right voice for that locker room right now.
Will Guillory: Absolutely. I think just a positive person, a guy who lifts up people, a guy who’s huge on relationships. I think that was extremely important for this team coming off Stan Van Gundy, who doesn’t exactly embrace a lot of roles, but he’s more of a he’s more of a I’m a Xs on those guy. I’m going to yell at you and tell you, make this rotation of run a weak side and will is like, No, I want to know about you as a person where you come from. So I think that’s what this you know, this is a young team. They need somebody like that who can kind of see where they were coming from. And I think Willie did an amazing job with that. And like you said, I mean, there’s a lot of talent on this team. We saw that the Suns series and then you throw that £280 guy in there who’s shooting 60% from the field. Giving you 30 a game is going to be fun to watch.
Jason Concepcion: Okay. Let’s talk about this. The weight in body fat percentage. This has been a point of discussion, of course, all throughout Zayn’s career, both as a collegiate athlete and even before that and certainly as a player in the NBA. You know, it’s been a point of discussion at every level from fans on Twitter to inside the NBA. Now, a thing that I think maybe casual NBA fans and even like people who watch the sport all the time, maybe don’t realize is NBA contracts. Are not public like they’re private, even though the details always come out. Right.
Will Guillory: Exactly.
Jason Concepcion: They’re not supposed to. Any idea how this leaked?
Will Guillory: Well, I think it is, like you said, that this topic around Zion is something that people are just kind of obsessed with. Man is crazy. Yeah. You know, covering this team since I came to town, I can’t tell you how many times people have walked up and say, well, how much does he weight? How big is he does? Have you seen him eat before? How many places to eat? It’s crazy. I can. I can promise you, since I’ve been covering Zion, people have asked me about his weight more than his game. It’s truly astounding. And I think it’s a topic that people really want to know about. And I think it’s a topic that in some cases I think it’s a little bit overblown, but I think it’s very relevant to his career. Yeah, because obviously, like you said, we haven’t seen a guy built like him who moves the way he does, who’s ever explosive as he is. And we’ve seen guys who are in that realm kind of like the Blake Griffin of the world. Sure. And those guys have kind of faded after a while because of their knees, because of the explosion, this kind of war on him after a while. And I think that’s the big question was Zion is not only how great can he be, but how long can he be great. Right. And I think a big part of that is the weight. So I think it’s something that is going to be a topic of conversation around him forever. And I think that’s the first thing people kind of want to know about. Once the contract came out, what were the incentives in there, not only because of the injuries, but also how are you going to kind of manage his weight? How are you going to manage the way he builds up his muscle? Because that’s going to affect his longevity. And I think that’s the big thing with the Pels is not only having Zion on the building, which is great, but how long can he be great with this franchise?
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, when I think about just the experience of seeing Zion move down the court, handle the way he does, explode to the rim, the way he does at six, six, something like to 80. The only thing I can relate it to maybe is Shaq, but Shaq again was seven one.
Will Guillory: Exactly.
Jason Concepcion: This doesn’t happen often in sports, but I watch him and I think I’ve never, ever seen this before, ever. I’ve never seen a guy who looks like he should be tackling the quarterback. He’s like, explode to the rim. Certainly we’ve seen big guys before it, right Robert tractor trailer, etc. You can go on and on. Oliver Miller You could talk about Charles Barkley, even a lighter. Charles Barkley But the combination of explosiveness, of physical power, of speed, of skill, it’s just we’ve never seen it before. I wonder just what’s it like to see him up close?
Will Guillory: Yeah. I mean, I tell people all the time. He is he’s like a rhino in sneakers. That’s what I kind of equate him to. Like, he just he just hits you and it’s like and I remember, Jason, we’re talking about a league where these are the greatest athletes in the world. Greatest, the great day. And he’s a tier above everybody else. What the way not only he explodes off the ground and he’s able to do these 360 windmills through the legs all that crazy stuff. But I’ve seen him put a shoulder in a Steven Adams who was like the mountain man. Aquaman. Yeah. Steven Adams is like, whoa, and bounce back. I mean, we’re talking about, like I said, some of the biggest human beings you’ll find as I am, puts a shoulder in them and they go flying into the stanchion like they got hit by a car or something. I mean, he’s so powerful. It’s incredible. And like you said, when you add his quickness to it, his ability to leap and just the just the way he can control his body in the air, it’s like especially during his second season, they’re so often like, yeah, he would drive into the lane and jump and then kind of just move over to the side and just lay it up while he’s like floating in the air. The way he can control his body at 280 is unbelievable. And I think I mean, this guy’s just getting started, right? He’s still just so young and still figuring out how to control himself. It’s crazy that and I think, man, if he can stay healthy, he’s going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Jason Concepcion: With by emerging as a real star in the league. Jose Alvarado One of the great like bench curveballs that you can throw into a game. And we saw how absolutely fed up. Chris Paul, one of the greatest to ever do it, was with him and his antics. Herb Jones, one of the brightest young stars in the NBA. And what a lift hitting on him is a huge lift to this franchise. Now, C.J McCollum, like integrating himself, I think more effectively than surely anybody expected. It’s hard to predict, but what are some of your expectations for this team coming into the season?
Will Guillory: Yeah, I think they’re definitely going to be a real threat. And the Western Conference, especially as I kind of can, the sense of that superstardom we see in them. I think like you said, they’re such a deep roster. They have so many different combinations they can throw at you. They can play big, they can play small, they can put multiple guards out there. They can play Zion, that point guard if they want to. They can do so many different things. I think the big thing is. Obviously Zion’s health, keeping him on the court and just finding a way to fit all these pieces in together. Because I think the the the thing about last year is they they got off to such a rough start. Obviously, they switched up the roster, bringing in C.J., bringing in Larry Nance, who I think is a big part of this as well. And those guys kind of figured it out, but then it’s like, okay, last year was great, but now we’re bringing in this guy and we’re going to run it through him now and it’s like, Okay, how does everyone adjust? How does buy adjust? How does Josie adjust of his minutes drop? How does Herb Jones adjust? And I think that’s going to be the big question for next year. And the West is just so deep, man. When you talk about yeah, the Clippers, the Nuggets, the Warriors, the Suns, there’s so many good teams out there. So I think talking about Western Conference finals might be a little bit too soon just because they’re still young and inexperienced. But I would tell you, if you get this team to the playoffs healthy and you got a nobody won on and you got nobody is going to be dangerous. They’re going to be very dangerous. And they’ve got a coach who’s been around championship teams before he was with the Suns when they made their run to the finals. So Willie understands playoff basketball. So yeah, this team is going to be extremely fun to watch. And I think that the big thing that I always say about this team as well is the big difference between this team and past New Orleans teams is I think during the Chris Paul era, during the Anthony Davis era, that the city was kind of behind, okay, we have this superstar, we can embrace him and we can see how far the superstar carries us. And now with this team, of course, you have Zion, you have by. But I think the city is really embracing this team and what they’re building together. Like you said, I was at a playoff game last year and they were chanting Jose Josie, Josie and Jose had Z love. That’s I.
Jason Concepcion: Love that.
Will Guillory: They literally had zero points and they were chanting his name like he was the face of the franchise. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I heard people screaming. Not on her. Not on her. Every time he gets a stop that people love this team. And I think that’s a great thing for the city, is they can embrace a team rather than a superstar because you get your hopes up with these superstars. And we see in the NBA any moment they could be gone. Right. So I, I think, yeah, having a team that the city can embrace, I think is a huge change. And I think, again, you got to give a ton of credit to that front office and what they were able to build in such a short amount of time.
Jason Concepcion: You mentioned Zion talking about just needing to get away from stuff with so much talk about, you know, size, its weight, its health constantly in the media. I wonder if, you know, without trying to read his mind, what is your sense about how all this stuff impacts him, all this talk? I mean, it’s it would be impossible to get away from if you are him. Like, I would probably just not have a phone. You know, I don’t watch TV. I don’t I don’t know how I get away from. But yet your sense of how he’s dealing with all that?
Will Guillory: Yeah, I think the spotlight is something he’s used to. Right? Because I mean, this is a guy you have like a million followers on Instagram when he was a junior in high school, you know?
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Will Guillory: So I think he’s used to kind of being the guy who when he walks in a room, everybody kind of turns and wants to see what he’s got going on, what he’s got to say. And I think he does a pretty good job of keeping himself private. You don’t see him doing too much on social media. You only see him out and about places too often. So I don’t think he has an issue with dealing with that as much. I think the issue for him these past couple of seasons is the way he kind of deals with that is going to play basketball, right? That’s his sanctuary. Yeah. That’s where he’s able to kind of get away and be himself and express himself without worrying about what the outside world has to say. Because he can say, okay, I dropped 28. That’s what you need to worry about right now. I if I’m dominant on the court that don’t worry about all the other stuff. But now when you’re not playing, when you’re hurt, when people are questioning what’s going on with you, then we’re worrying about, hey, what do you look like in that sweatshirt? What’s going on? Why aren’t you talking to your teammates? I think all of that stuff gets magnified when he’s not playing. So I think the big thing for him, he just wants to get back on the court and just get back to doing the stuff he loves where he can get the conversation going about basketball rather than his weight or his friendship with other players and stuff like that. I think that that just comes with the territory, but I think it just gets a little bit more annoying when that’s the only thing you’re dealing with. Yeah, especially now before it was the contract issue on top of that. So now he’s dealt with the contract issue. That’s no longer a talking point. So I think the big thing for him is just getting healthy, getting back on the court so he can just get back to playing basketball again. I think that’s going to make him a lot happier. I think you talked to a million athletes. You know how depressed those guys get when they’re hurt. Yeah, and they can’t play. It just affects them so much. And I think people don’t really get that because once the guys are hurt, they’re kind of gone and you don’t see them anymore. But those guys are dealing with those injuries and you can’t do the stuff you want to do. I think it hurts them a lot and it’s a lot to deal with, especially for a young guy who’s never had to deal with that before. Right. He’s been mostly healthy throughout his career. So having to deal with an injury where he was out for basically a full year before he can really get back to playing five on five basketball. I think it was a mental challenge for him to deal with that and understand it kind of looking in the mirror and be like, okay, I got to fix myself. I can’t just play basketball and fix it. I got to worry about. How I can get myself back right mentally. And that’s going to allow me to be the basketball player that I know I can be.
Jason Concepcion: He is Will Guillory, Pelicans staff writer with The Athletic. Will, thank you so much for joining us.
Will Guillory: Thank you for having me on.
Jason Concepcion: It’s time for Buzzer Beaters where we talk about the stuff that we didn’t have time to talk about in the run of the podcast. And I would like to talk about the England team that won the Euros, ending six decades of misery for England. Here’s the thing about me. Whenever England men or women’s get into a the euros World Cup, any kind of tournament. Against my better judgment, I always end up rooting for them because they just they want it so badly. They want that trophy to come home. They believe that they invented football. And I’m not going to I’m not going to look it up. I’m not going to fact check it. I believe them, but they clearly want it so badly. And the history of England in international competitions, you know, ever since that world shattering World Cup win in 1966, as referenced in Mad Men, when Lane Price is delighted that his England team won and none of his American coworkers know what the fuck he’s talking about, it has been just a collection of various miseries penalty kick, shootout, tragedies, etc., etc., etc. And so for England to win it over Germany, who have been so many times the rival that has put the knife in their heart, it was just awesome to see. It was awesome to see a full stadium for a women’s sporting event. It was a great way to spend a Sunday. Congratulations to England. Congratulations to that team. It came home. They did it. Goodbye. That’s it for us. Follow and Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, don’t forget. Subscribe to X-Ray Vision on YouTube for exclusive video clips from my pop culture show. Check it out, folks. Goodbye. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and sound design by the great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kelman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.