LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball cutout
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LaMelo Ball leaves Australia, supposedly without telling his team

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LaMelo Ball suffered as season-ending foot injury while playing Australia last month.

Now, he’s returning to the United States – and leaving behind some hurt feelings.

Timothy Fernandez of ABC News:

American basketball sensation LaMelo Ball has unceremoniously ended his Australian stint, leaving the country without telling his teammates.

His club, the Illawarra Hawks confirmed the 18-year-old guard had taken a flight home and will continue his rehabilitation from a foot injury, which kept him sidelined since November, in the United States.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Illawarra Hawks has criticised the star’s unannounced departure from the club.

“I’m really disappointed that he didn’t say goodbye to his teammates and his coach,” Simon Stratford told NewsCorp.

“We had some indication via his minder Jermaine Jackson that he wouldn’t stay for the rest of the season.

Ball was in Australia because the NBA still hasn’t lowered its age minimum. So, that’s where could go to earn money and improve his draft stock.

Mission accomplished.

Did Ball handle his departure appropriately tactfully and respectfully? Maybe not.

Do I completely trust messaging from a spurned team? Nope.

As long as LaVar Ball remains in the picture, there will be concern about controversy surrounding LaMelo. Teams should look into how LaMelo handles this situation. Perhaps, his exit from Australia shows something about his dependability.

But LaMelo’s time in Australia absolutely showed his talent. That will get him picked high in the 2020 NBA draft.

LaMelo Ball’s Australian basketball career ends at 12 games after foot injury

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SYDNEY — LaMelo Ball‘s bone bruise on his left foot is expected to keep him out of the Illawarra Hawks lineup for the remainder of the National Basketball League season in Australia.

The 18-year-old American, who joined Illawarra as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program, is expected to be a top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft.

Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in 12 games, however, he shot just 25 percent from three and 37.5 percent overall. He averaged 31 minutes of playing time a game for the last-place Hawks, but hasn’t played since sustaining the injury in early December. The regular season ends in mid-February.

The club said the point guard will continue his rehabilitation to include court-based activity under the care of the Hawks’ medical team.

“It’s important that he makes a return to full fitness ahead of the NBA draft and we will do everything we can to support that and his aim to become the No. 1 pick,” NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said Friday.

“LaMelo has enjoyed an excellent season and there is no doubt his draft prospects have been firmly enhanced by his time playing in the NBL.”

Ball helped draw big crowds, including a league-record 17,514 for the Hawks’ November game against the Sydney Kings in Sydney.

While his shooting percentage wasn’t great in his first few games, Ball got better as the season progressed. He took on extra responsibilities after former NBA guard Aaron Brooks left the club with a torn Achilles tendon in late October.

Ball became the first player in the 40-minute NBL era to record a triple-double in consecutive games, in what turned out to be his last two appearances for the Hawks.

Ball had 32 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in his second-last game against Cairns, in the process becoming the youngest player in NBL history to achieve a triple-double.

He followed up with another strong performance in his last game, scoring 25 points, taking 12 rebounds and making 10 assists against the New Zealand Breakers.

He recently donated a month of his salary, which was not disclosed, to a national relief fund in aid of wildfire victims in Australia.

Three Things to Know: Rings aren’t won in December but Bucks are best team right now

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Rings aren’t won in December, but Milwaukee is the best team in the NBA right now. The Lakers wanted this one. You could tell through their words — before the game coach Frank Vogel called the matchup of the two best records in the league a “measuring stick game” — but more through their actions. Specifically, letting Anthony Davis play despite still having pain in the ankle he tweaked on Sunday.

The Bucks were better.

Milwaukee held the Lakers to 17 points in the first quarter, forced turnovers on 19.6 percent of Laker possessions, led by as many as 21, held off every Laker run late, got 34 points from their MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (who also shot 5-of-8 from three, plus had 11 rebounds), and generally handled the game.

The final score was 111-104 Milwaukee, but that makes it seem much closer a game than it actually was.

The Larry O’Brien trophy is not handed out in December, and both these teams will evolve between now and June (if both get that far).

However, right now, the Bucks are the best team in the NBA. And they proved it.

There are mitigating factors for the Lakers, no doubt: This was the last game of a road trip, Los Angeles was playing its fifth game in 10 days on the road, Kyle Kuzma was out, and Davis had his sprained ankle.

Not that the ankle slowed Davis much — he had 36 points, had to guard Antetokounmpo much of the night, and was arguably the best player on the court. Plus, he did this to the Greek Freak late in the game.

Yet, the concerns about the Lakers going into the season showed up on Thursday night. There is the depth concern — the Lakers got four points from their bench on the night. There were the questions about having enough shooting — take Danny Green (21 points) out of the equation and the Lakers shot 21.7 percent from three (including Davis going 0-of-6).

Meanwhile, the Bucks were the better team, a roster well built to match its star and in tune with how to play off him. Milwaukee players understand the angles, space the floor, and when the Lakers would close out aggressively at the arc the Bucks make smart cuts to the rim. There was balance. George Hill had 21, Khris Middleton 15, and Wesley Matthews had 13 plus a couple of clutch steals.

It’s just December. This game only counts for one game in the standings. Nothing is decided.

Right now, however, Milwaukee is the best team in the NBA — and they proved it.

2) We need a Rockets vs. Clippers playoff series. These teams can’t stand each other. There’s not a lot of venom in today’s NBA. That’s not to say guys don’t go hard at each other — they do — but after the final buzzer there is a “we’re all part of one fraternity” mindset among most players.

Which makes the Clippers and Rockets so much fun — they can’t stand each other. Like when Patrick Beverley fouled out Thursday night, Russell taunted him, waved goodbye, and picked up a technical for it.

Or, watch the normally-controlled Lou Williams lose it after a foul call and get tossed.

It was that kind of night and one where the Rockets were the better team. With the Clippers focused on making life difficult for James Harden — he still had 28 points, including nine in the final six minutes — Russell Westbrook went off for 40.

The Rockets got the win 122-117, a quality road victory for a team trying to prove it should be counted among the West’s elite.

We just need to see more of this matchup come the playoffs.

3) Likely top-3 pick next June James Wiseman leaves Memphis to prepare for NBA draft. The NBA world did not see this coming, there was genuine surprise among scouts and front office people at the G-League showcase event in Las Vegas. The Memphis Wildcats did not see this coming, either.

James Wiseman, the best big man in the coming NBA Draft and likely top-three pick (certainly top five), is leaving Memphis to prepare for the Draft.

View this post on Instagram

Today I formally withdrew from the University of Memphis and I will be preparing for the next chapter of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. Throughout this process, I’ve asked God to ordain my steps and lead me in the right direction. God is my lord and salvation, and throughout this process he has comforted me. This was not how I expected my freshman season to be, but I’m thankful for everyone who has supported my family and me throughout this process. I want to thank the coaches and staff for all their support and my teammates for pushing me everyday at practice. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be a Tiger and for having the honor to play with these special group of guys. I can’t wait to see what all they accomplish this season. The friends and fans of Tiger Nation will always hold a place in my heart. #GoTigersGo 🐯🔵🐯

A post shared by James Wiseman (@bigticket_j13) on

Wiseman had issues with the NCAA and was serving a 12-game suspension because Penny Hardaway — now the Memphis coach but at the time a local high school coach — gave $11,500 to Wiseman’s family so they could move from Nashville to Memphis. He was close to coming off that suspension when the surprise announcement came.

Wiseman is an elite prospect. He stands 7’1” with a 7’5” wingspan and has impressive athleticism. The potential is obvious. The biggest concern is that he wants to play like a modern, shot-creating big man — think Antetokounmpo or Kevin Durant — but right now his skill set is that of a more traditional NBA center. He’s got some developing to do.

The first thing scouts in Vegas said: This will not change his draft status much, if at all. They have seen enough, despite just three college games, although he does lose out on having the kind of season that could climb him up draft boards.

The other thing people at the G-League Showcase wondered:

Is this a trend? LaMelo Ball could start to wind it down early in Australia. What if Cole Anthony or Anthony Edwards decide to follow suit and shut it down early (or choose not to play in the conference or NCAA Tournament)? Not that they will, but if it’s not going to impact draft status then more guys in the future could go Wiseman’s route.

At least until the NBA does away with the one-and-done rule, or the NCAA finds a way to compensate athletes financially.

James Wiseman, potential No. 1 pick, declares for 2020 NBA draft

James Wiseman
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James Wiseman has been getting the runaround from the NCAA.

So, after just three games at Memphis, the potential No. 1 pick is done with all the hassle.

Wiseman:

View this post on Instagram

Today I formally withdrew from the University of Memphis and I will be preparing for the next chapter of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. Throughout this process, I’ve asked God to ordain my steps and lead me in the right direction. God is my lord and salvation, and throughout this process he has comforted me. This was not how I expected my freshman season to be, but I’m thankful for everyone who has supported my family and me throughout this process. I want to thank the coaches and staff for all their support and my teammates for pushing me everyday at practice. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be a Tiger and for having the honor to play with these special group of guys. I can’t wait to see what all they accomplish this season. The friends and fans of Tiger Nation will always hold a place in my heart. #GoTigersGo 🐯🔵🐯

A post shared by James Wiseman (@bigticket_j13) on

At some point, maybe the NCAA will do the right thing and stop trying to keep its athletes broke. And maybe the NBA will lower its age minimum and allow players to enter the league straight from high school.

In the meantime, players like Wiseman are caught in a year of limbo.

At least he’s emerging into a relatively strong position.

Wiseman is in the running with LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Cole Anthony to be the top pick in next year’s draft.

At 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and awesome athleticism, Wiseman has an elite physical profile. But he’s also a center trying to fit into the modern NBA. There are questions about his physicality and ball skills.

Wiseman is just 18. It’s unclear how exactly he’ll develop.

But it won’t be far into the draft until a team bets on his considerable upside.