Report: Lonzo Ball’s father seeking signature shoe deal, shoe would have $200 price tag

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The list of active NBA players with a signature shoe from a top brand is short and elite: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose (his old deal with Adidas).Also, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have shoes in their name under the Jordan brand.

(There are other deals with Chinese and overseas companies, too: Rajon Rondo and Klay Thompson through ANTA; Dwyane Wade through Li-Ning; Tony Parker, Dwight Howard, and Matthew Dellavedova through PEAK.)

Notice any rookies or young players on that list? Nope. The days of top picks — even can’t miss top picks — getting massive shoe deals are gone. Rookies sign smaller deals — three-or-four years, around $1 million a year, for the top picks — then need to establish themselves not just as players but as crossover brands that break out of basketball before signature shoe deals start coming down.

Don’t tell LaVar Ball that.

The father of likely top three pick Lonzo Ball is trying to use that hype to promote his Big Baller Brand — and at the heart of the plan is a shoe deal. Except he went to the major shoe manufacturers — Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour — offering a co-branding strategy with Big Baller, and all three took a pass. Nick DePaula of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports wrote about the Ball shoe plan.

So far, Big Baller Brand has primarily sold screen-printed T-shirts, sweatshirts and embroidered hats on its web store, with prices ranging from $50-$100 per piece. The brand is targeting the $200 tier for its debut Big Baller Brand basketball sneaker, an industry source told The Vertical, which would presumably be Lonzo’s signature shoe for his rookie season. LaVar and associate Alan Foster reportedly have been developing the shoe over the past year.

Should Lonzo not reach an endorsement deal with any footwear brand and instead wear the family’s inaugural Big Baller Brand sneaker, it would be a first for a potential top-five selection. There’s no denying that LaVar’s push for a co-branded partnership with potential major brands has stifled what would otherwise be a highly competitive market for Lonzo, an industry source told The Vertical.

Forget that he hasn’t earned a shoe deal, but a $200 price point? That’s the very top of the market, more than the LeBron XIV (at full price on the Nike site), and LeBron has an established track record of being able to sell shoes. LeBron’s most expensive shoe is $220, and the latest KD’s go for $195. But again, those are established international stars who can sell shoes both domestically and overseas (especially China).

It’s not that shoe companies don’t want Lonzo Ball on their team, just not on his father’s terms. How good a point guard Ball will be as a pro is up for debate, some scouts and teams are high on him as a future All-Star level player, but another told me recently he sees a future average starting NBA point guard. Not bad, but not signature shoe deal good.

Don’t tell LaVar all this.

DePaula’s story notes that the two younger Ball brothers — LiAngelo and LaMelo — play for teams sponsored by Adidas (LiAngelo will attend UCLA next year, another Adidas school, but he is said not to be as good as his older brother). Maybe that cracks the door open with that company.

What frustrated people about LaVar is he seems to put making money and marketing ahead of success on the court. That’s not necessarily true, and to his credit Lonzo seems able to tune out his father’s “marketing” maneuvers, but there’s a sense of unearned entitlement that LaVar is unfairly placing on Lonzo. One plenty of NBA players will be ready to wipe out of Lonzo the first chance they get on the court.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.