LiAngelo Ball was never going to get drafted Thursday night. He simply is not that good (something I heard from every scout I talked to that saw him play).
He did get invited to work out for some teams before the draft (including the Warriors and Lakers). Impress there and the next step is an invite to play on a Summer League team. I don’t know if the middle Ball son impressed enough in workouts to earn an invite, but I do know he had an extra hurdle to climb — and a big one to most teams — because organizations do not want to deal with LaVar Ball and that circus.
That includes the Lakers, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
It will be interesting to see if another team is willing to give LiAngelo Ball a roster spot in Las Vegas. I would be shocked if a G-League team or two does not make him an offer for next season — for them, the marketing and publicity would be worth the hassle. How well he plays is secondary.
If a player is as talented and has the potential of Lonzo Ball, teams will put up with a lot. The Lakers organization has its frustrations with LaVar (to put it kindly), but they like Lonzo and what he could become (the team just played better with him on the court last season). Yes, Lonzo has trade value, too, but they’re not opposed to keeping him, depending upon how this summer shakes out. They can ignore the dad for him.
LiAngelo simply isn’t the level of talent where teams will tolerate the circus around him.
The big question for me is LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, who was considered a top prospect for colleges a couple of years ago (and had committed to UCLA). How has being pulled out of his high school and playing low-level European competition in exhibitions in Lithuania impacted his standing? Something to watch over the next few years.
Just know LaVar Ball is never giving up the dream.
Pelicans star Anthony Davis has made the playoffs just twice in six years. Last season was the first time he won a a series.
That’s atypical for a player of his caliber.
Davis, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“When you look at LeBron, every year you know he’s going to be great and his team is going to have a chance to win the title,” Davis said. “From here on out, I want to be in that conversation every year. Not every other year. Not every few years. Every year. If that’s going to happen, we’re going to have to win, and I’m going to have to be the most dominant player.”
Davis is putting it on himself to be that player.
The big question: Are the Pelicans good enough to be that team?
Both Davis and New Orleans met his expectations in a resounding opening win over the Rockets, but it’s a long season. The Pelicans are good, though flawed. They’ve never contended for a title with Davis, let alone done so annually. As he enters the midst of his prime, it might be now or never.
Davis can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and he’s setting a bar. A high one.
LeBron James has played more minutes, regular season and playoffs combined, than Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and John Stockton did in their entire careers. Last year alone, in his age-33 season, LeBron played 3,947 minutes – the most by anyone since LeBron in his first season with the Heat and the most by anyone so old since Michael Jordan in his last season with the Bulls.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Cavs officials have privately joked that “the tread is off his tires” as James transitions to L.A. after playing so much last season.
I wonder how much genuine thought is behind that joke. I’d bet some, though I bet it’s also some self-perceived true belief masking a coping mechanism.
If LeBron wanted to sign a five-year max contract last summer, the Cavaliers would’ve jumped to do it. Instead, he left them for the Lakers.
I also wonder how LeBron feels about that joking. He takes his training seriously and has defied typical aging curves.
This is why LeBron was right to leave for Los Angeles if that’s what he wanted to do. For players with power to do something about it – LeBron definitely qualifies – NBA careers are too short to work with people whose vision doesn’t align with theirs. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as a divide, but there was already plenty of acrimony between LeBron and the organization in Cleveland.
That said, the Lakers unconditionally believing in LeBron’s staying power could do them in. He is in his 16th season and will turn 34 in December. He’s not worn down yet, but the clock is ticking.
When he hired Phil Jackson as team president, Knicks owner James Dolan infamously said he was ceding control “willingly and gratefully.”
But New York kept Steve Mills, who had been running the front office, on staff as general manager. Mills also replaced Jackson as president after Jackson got fired.
That served as a lesson for Jeanie Buss, Lakers owner and Jackson’s former fiancée.
Sam Amick of The Athletic:
Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades.
“He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued.
Buss doesn’t name Mills or anyone. But it’s hard not to jump to man who was both Jackson’s predecessor and successor. After regaining control, Mills said he tried to steer Jackson in other directions (which, hopefully).
This reflects poorly on Dolan, whose poor leadership has cast a shadow over the organization for years. There is a toxic culture within the Knicks, from the top down.
But it’s not as if Jackson were simply a victim of that culture. With the notable exception of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson failed miserably in roster-building. He contributed to the malaise with a comedy of incompetence.
Maybe Mills stabbed Jackson in the back. But Jackson was his own problem, anyway.
The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.
Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.
But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.
It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.
The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.
The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.
The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.
Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.
It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.