Lonzo Ball not worried his father LaVar will be problem with teammates

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Los Angeles coach Luke Walton tells the story of coming to Lakers training camp as a rookie in 2003, when his father Bill was an outspoken television color commentator on national NBA games, and having multiple veterans basically tell him “I’m going to make your life hell because of your father.” But it didn’t really work out that way. Walton proved he belonged, found a role on a team that went to the NBA Finals, and fit in. He wasn’t really hazed more than any other rookie.

Lonzo Ball feels much the same way. Sure, his father LaVar Ball has courted media attention with the outlandish, but the son does not expect to be punished for the sins of his father.

“Nah. Speaking for my teammates, they already know how he is so it’s never been a problem, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Ball told NBCSports.com.

In fact, the younger Ball says the new “Ball in the Family” reality series on Facebook is already changing the opinions of some about his father and his family.

“I think they’re already seeing it because I get a lot of feedback on the show, and a lot more people are seeing the person that he really is,” Ball said. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy people get to see the person I have known my whole life.”

That may be true, but you can bet some of the stars LaVar took shots at — Stephen Curry, LeBron James and others — may do a little stare down with dad jogging back upcourt after a big play against the Lakers this season. It’s not wise to provide the NBA’s best players more motivation.

None of it seems to phase Lonzo. The younger Ball just does what he does, not reacting to his father. For example, LaVar said that Steve Nash was too short and slow to teach his son anything, but Lonzo didn’t see it that way at all.

“He’s an MVP, you know, one of the best point guards who ever played, so anything that he taught me is definitely useful,” Ball said. “And just that one day alone I learned a lot about coming off a screen, guarding, there’s a lot of stuff he helped and I appreciate him taking time out of his day to do that because I know he didn’t have to.”

Working on how to better take advantage of screens was something coach Walton wanted Ball to focus on this summer, and few have ever been better and using their dribble as a weapon to create space and angles off a pick as Nash. Another area of focus this summer was getting stronger and working on conditioning before the marathon grind of the NBA season — Nash could help with that, too. He was one of the NBA’s early prophets on the topics of diet and sleep for players.

“We talked about nutrition, keeping your body right in the training room and stuff, lifting weights the right way, so he helped me on more things than just basketball,” Ball said. “He helped me with my all around game… speaking for myself, I haven’t really taken care of my body like that before because I didn’t have to. Hearing it from him, it definitely made a lot of sense and I’m looking forward to adding that to my daily routine.”

One big question out there has been Lonzo’s shoes — he wore a different pair almost nightly during Summer League. During our conversation — which you can hear all of on the PBT Podcast — I asked him what planned to wear opening night against the Clippers? A pair of his brother’s LaMelo’s? Lonzo laughed and said he’s stick with his own shoes, the ZO2.

Lonzo is just going to do his thing. Like always. So far that has worked well for him.

 

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.