The Ball Brothers Are Balling Out!
Maybe it is all the hype building up from the BallIsLife mixtapes and House of Highlights montages on YouTube. Maybe it is the loud ringing of Lavar Ball’s old quotes starting to slowly resurface. Or maybe, just maybe the Ball Brothers are really as good as advertised.
It feels safe to say that it has been a pretty exciting week and a half for the Ball Family in terms of performing on the NBA stage. So, with that in mind, the bandwagon for the Ball Family Bucket Getters may be quickly pulling out of the station.
We are still relatively early in the season and there is still a lot of time to see where things are heading for these two as the season progresses. But as of right now, if the league was sleeping on the talent of the Ball Bros in the NBA entering this season, then EVERYONE should be bright-eyed and bushy tail awake by now! That is why this week’s Hoopers of the Week are LaMelo Ball in the Eastern Conference and Lonzo Ball in the Western Conference.
When it comes to the hype surrounding this young rookie phenom, the word that comes to mind is astronomical. He came into this season as the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He is the guy who did not take the college route to the League and instead played in various countries overseas. Not to mention he already had the national spotlight as the kid from Chino Hills who scored 92 points in a single high school game. So, this is definitely a guy who entered the league with a target on his back.
Yet so far all he has done is live up to the hype. LaMelo has been awarded the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month while leading all rookies in points, assists, and rebounds so far this season. All this while coming off the bench for a young, developing Charlotte Hornets team headlined by the veteran All-Star Gordon Hayward and the dunk maestro that is Miles Bridges.
But after 20 games of watching him come off of the bench, NBA Twitter’s prayers were heard. With veteran guard Terry Rozier ruled out with a sprained right ankle, it was time for LaMelo to run with the big boys in the starting lineup against the Miami Heat earlier this week. And as you would have expected, he had a subpar game with 14 points, five rebounds, and seven assists on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor. But after shaking off the first-start jitters, LaMelo has emerged and may have just snatched a starting guard position from either Rozier or third-year guard Devonte’ Graham.
In his last two games, he put up a combined 56 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists against two of the top teams in the league, the Utah Jazz and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game against the Jazz was easily the most impressive as he put up a career-high 34 points and became the youngest Hornets player to ever score 30+ points in a game. So far he is averaging 13.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on 43.7% shooting from the floor.
As he continues to gain a larger grasp of the pro game and is awarded more minutes, these statistics could quite possibly shoot up to the point that he could become a walking triple-double. The Rookie of the Year conversation obviously starts with LaMelo Ball right now and with Charlotte only a game out of the 6th spot in the East, this rookie may also be just the shining star that propels the Hornets back to the postseason for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.
Then there is the older brother, who might have come in with even more of a target on his back than the youngest Ball Brother.
As the 2nd overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Lonzo was already being anointed as the “next great up and coming guard” practically from the minute he shook commissioner Adam Silver’s hand. Magic Johnson said his name would be hung up in the Lakers’ rafters. His father said that he was better than former two-time MVP guard Stephen Curry. Everything pointed to him having a handful of “Welcome to the league” moments in the early stages of his career.
Since then, he has been humbled by Patrick Beverley, traded in a huge deal for Anthony Davis, and has been trying to find his calling card in the league in pursuit of his second league-contract. But enough with all the details. Lonzo has heard all the chatter about him and JJ Redick being on the trade block and has answered the bell.
After dropping 27 points and eight assists last week in a win over Milwaukee when he rained down seven threes, Lonzo has begun to look like a man on a mission. This week he had 18 points and six rebounds against the Phoenix Suns. 20 points and six rebounds against Indiana, a game that he made the key defensive play on Pacers’ center Myles Turner in the closing seconds to seal the victory. Then followed that up with a near triple-double of 16 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in a big win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The common denominator of these games: Lonzo playing well means the Pelicans win games.
So far this season he is averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 42.2% shooting from the floor. Although the statistics may not look as great as his younger brother’s, Lonzo does have the caveat of saying that he plays alongside two legitimate All-Star talents in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. He can also hang his hat on the fact that he still is one of the best facilitating guards in the open court in the league and is an All-NBA caliber defender on that side of the floor.
One can only guess what his motivation for ratcheting things up is though. Is he trying to not get traded? Is he trying to boost his trade value? Or is he just getting hot at the right time as New Orleans tries to turn things around before the All-Star break? Nonetheless, Lonzo has really woken up this week and the Pelicans could definitely use a fully engaged Lonzo Ball right now as they currently sit at 10-12 (12th in the standings).
The jury is still out on Lonzo to prove whether or not he was worth being taken at the top of the draft. But stretches like these are what make it so easy to gravitate to him and believe that he could one day become the All-Star guard he was once hyped up to be.