Three things to know: LaMelo Ball will be a superstar, Giannis shows him one path

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) LaMelo Ball will be a superstar, Giannis shows him one path

LaMelo Ball will never be Giannis Antetokounmpo, because nobody else will ever be Giannis Antetokounmpo. LaMelo will never be a 6’11” ball-handler with unreal athleticism and DPOY skills who is a freak of nature/unicorn.

LaMelo could be like Giannis in the sense of a future All-NBA player (maybe MVP… maybe?) who is the franchise cornerstone of a contender. LaMelo has the skills. Look what the man did to Jrue Holiday.

To ultimately reach that level, eventually LaMelo will have to win a ring. Or rings. We’re years and a lot of development away from that conversation with LaMelo, but there comes a point for the game’s biggest superstars when legacy becomes about the ability to win a ring. That’s not fair, this is a team game, and you can’t convince me Karl Malone is less of a player or person because he kept running into that Jordan guy and his legendary teams in the Finals. But the reality is rings will matter.

Wednesday night, LaMelo Ball and Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show, with LaMelo scoring 36 and Antetokounmpo finishing with 40.

Antetokounmpo had the last word.

The respect was there, and after the game the two stars talked and exchanged jerseys.

There are a lot of paths to a ring, but Antetokounmpo showed Ball one of them: Stay where you are in a smaller market, become the best version of yourself, trust management to build a winner around you, trust ownership to spend when it is time, and win one where you are.

That path doesn’t always work out (see Anthony Davis in New Orleans, although that divorce got ugly). But it’s an option.

Right now, the Hornets are League Pass darlings and that’s all they need to be. Miles Bridges shows potential and will be part of whatever the future in Charlotte looks like, and P.J. Washington shows flashes. We will wait to see what James Bouknight and Kai Jones become. Ball is in just his second season, and while we see the potential, he has a long way to go to reach that.

But as he does, Antetokounmpo shows one path forward.

2) Injuries are piling up: Bam Adebayo, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker to miss time

We could have spent this space talking about tampering, but honestly, if the NBA league office doesn’t care about it — and their actions with a slap on the wrist of the Heat and Bulls show they don’t on a fundamental level — then why should we?

Instead, let’s get into two significant injuries around the NBA.

Damian Lillard hasn’t been himself. Not in the Olympics when he was not the logo Lillard we expected to be Kevin Durant‘s right-hand man. Certainly not at the start of this season where he is shooting 30.2% from 3 (down from 39.1% last season), and he hasn’t shown the same bursts and quickness. Lillard will be out for at least 10 days due to lower abdominal tendinopathy, the team announced. It’s the abdominal issue that has bothered him all along, and it may take more than 10 days to get right. Portland just has to find a way to stay afloat without him.

Lillard’s Olympic teammate Bam Adebayo will miss time following thumb surgery.

Miami has been stumbling a bit lately and this doesn’t help, Adebayo is a lynchpin for the Heat on both ends of the floor. He averages 18.7 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, plus anchors the Miami defense.

If Adebayo (and Jimmy Butler) are healthy come the playoffs, the Heat have a shot in the East. Get the surgery now, rest, get right, and he can come back as the player the Heat need.

One other Olympian will miss some time, the Suns announced that Devin Booker is out with a hamstring injury. This is considered mild as hamstrings go, but they are slow to heal and teams are rightfully cautious when a star tweaks one. There is no timetable, but Booker likely misses a week or two for the Suns, including Friday’s rematch with the Warriors.

3) Break up the Rockets: Houston wins fourth straight

The Rockets organization may still be tanking, but their young players have started to win a few games — four in a row after beating the Thunder Wednesday night.

Jae'Sean Tate scored 32 on 11-of-15 shooting for the Rockets. Although, the most interesting thing at this random NBA game between two of its worst teams is that Drake showed up.

Highlight of the Night: Kevin Love has still got some game

The Cleveland Cavaliers want to trade Kevin Love. The rest of the NBA sees the $60.2 million he is owed between this season and next and says, “nah, we good.” But Love went out Wednesday and showed he still has some value, hitting six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points on the night.

Not sure there’s a trade for him at the deadline, but next summer… maybe.

Last night’s scores:

Atlanta 114, Indiana 111
Orlando 108, Denver 103
Washington 115, Minnesota 107
Boston 88, Philadelphia 87
Cleveland 111, Miami 85
Milwaukee 127, Charlotte 125
Dallas 139, New Orleans 107
Houston 114, Oklahoma City 110
Sacramento 124, LA Clippers 115