Lonzo Ball

LaMelo Ball
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Report: LaMelo Ball buys his Australian team

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LaMelo Ball signed in Australia under the National Basketball League’s Next Stars program and built himself into a high-end draft pick. But he suffered a season-ending foot injury then left his team under criticism from Illawarra Hawks owner Simon Stratford.

What a powerful rebuttal.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick LaMelo Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson, have purchased his Australian NBL team, the Illawarra Hawks, Jackson told ESPN on Thursday.

“When Melo wants to do stuff in the summertime, we’ll be there,” Jackson said. “We’ll take a tour with his family all over Australia, doing basketball camps and connecting with the youth. He wants to inspire the next generation.

“That’s how he was raised by his family. People have a perception of his father, but he has a heart of gold and it trickles down to his kids. His father didn’t take him on a traditional route. He started his own sneaker company, Big Baller Brand. We’ve always talked about ownership. Melo wants kids to think big, especially in times like this.”

This is a heck of a headline for an 18-year-old.

I’m curious about the details. What share of the franchise do Ball and Jackson now own? How much did it cost? Did they assume debt to complete the deal? How profitable are NBL teams, especially considering coronavirus-caused uncertainty?

But with Lonzo Ball‘s Pelicans season on hold and LaVar Ball losing influence, this at least puts the spotlight back on a Ball.

ProBasketballTalk Podcast: Who should be drafted No. 1?

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Should Anthony Edwards be the No. 1 pick?

Or James Wiseman? How would Obi Toppin fit with the Warriors?

More importantly, how is anyone preparing for a draft when nobody knows when it will take place?

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports — who just completed his mock draft — joins me to discuss what they know and don’t know about the 2020 NBA Draft, starting with having no idea when it will take place. We discuss Obi Toppin, Lonzo Ball, sleepers to watch, and everything in between in a draft preview podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Pelicans’ David Griffin: ‘The idea of canceling a season is not all on [the NBA’s] minds’

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Fox Sports New Orleans, like the local broadcasters for many NBA teams, is reshowing some older games from earlier this season. Something has to fill the airtime with the NBA shutdown.

This weekend, New Orleans streamed a live pregame show for its recorded game and brought in David Griffin, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations (read: the guy with the hammer), to talk about the team.

Of course he was asked about play resuming, and while he didn’t pretend to have any answers (nobody does), he said the league was not talking about canceling the season. (Transcription via Jim Eichenhofer at Pelicans.com.)

“With everything changing so quickly, everything is in a state of flux that I think it would be premature for the NBA to say what it ultimately looks like. I do know unequivocally that the league is very mindful of the idea of getting back to playing. The idea of canceling a season is not all on their minds, and we’re modeling every possible thing we can for how we can deliver a product to the fans. Quite frankly, we’re all going to need a diversion in the future. (But) until we can get to a point where we think we’ve got containment of (the coronavirus), we’re going to continue to stay locked down. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can come back sooner rather than later.”

That is the optimistic viewpoint, and primarily what I hear talking to sources around the league — the NBA wants to play games and crown a champion, in whatever form that ultimately takes. There are financial and continuity reasons for this, but nobody wants a 1994 baseball year (although that World Series was lost to a players’ strike). There is a growing pessimism from some in the league, looking at the timelines of a potential coronavirus spread in the U.S., that the league may end up having to cancel. Ultimately, however, nobody knows.

Just don’t underestimate how much the NBA wants to get games played and have a Finals this year.

Also of interest in the pregame, Griffin talked about the connection between Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball on the court.

“A big part of it is the chemistry you see with Lonzo and Zion,” Griffin said. “They have a special connection. I think Nicolo Melli getting more minutes, and him starting to become a key part of the rotation has been essential as well. Those three guys work incredibly well as a unit. The two people who were most damaged by (Williamson’s) absence individually were probably Lonzo – because Zion gives us another player who can create vertical thrust in the offense – and Lonzo can pick defenses apart with his passing…

“Melli, when there is that dive thrust (by Williamson) toward the rim, (Melli) is going to be pulling bigs away from the basket,” Griffin said. “He is absolutely essential when Zion’s on the floor, from a spacing standpoint. When you see the relationship between those three growing, it just exponentially improves our team.”

Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

Mock NBA expansion draft
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division, Northwest Division and Southeast Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southwest:

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Seven of Dallas’ protections were easy calls. They’re all players locked up long-term. That left deciding between Tim Hardaway Jr, who has been a starter for the Mavericks but has a player option, and several other useful players.

Ultimately, the Mavs can’t afford to lose Hardaway, who has rediscovered his solid offensive play from his Hawks years. That leaves Justin Jackson and three big men in Dwight Powell (coming off a torn Achilles’) and Boban Marjanovic and Willie-Cauley-Stein (both backups for Dallas). The most likely to be selected player is probably Jackson, but that’s a risk Dallas has to take.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Just how hard the Grizzlies’ protection decision were is a testament to how well their rebuild has gone. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton were all locks. Justise Winslow was just acquired at the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a deal. Tyus Jones is the ideal backup point guard behind Morant, so he stays as well. That left Jonas Valanciunas vs Kyle Anderson for the final protected spot. Valanciunas’ presence allows Jackson to play power forward, so the big man gets the final spot.

Memphis is gambling that Anderson’s slow-mo style of play and $9.5 million salary isn’t what an expansion team is looking for. Jontay Porter is another risk, but he’s got a lengthy injury history of his own. The Grizzlies will hope one of the other three is selected and might be willing to offer a small incentive to make it happen.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: New Orleans’ protections are cut and dry. Every player protected, minus Brandon Ingram, is signed for at least one more season. This includes several players on rookie scale contracts. Ingram will most assuredly be re-signed this summer, so that decision was easy as well.

The only gamble among the unprotected players is Nicolo Melli. He’s become a rotation player for the Pelicans, but he’s not as valuable as the younger players. The other three players are mostly out of the New Orleans’ rotation and not anyone the team will worry about if they are selected.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Spurs are banking on keeping DeMar DeRozan this summer. He either opts in or re-signs in San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge is an easy decision as well. Dejounte Murray will start his extension this coming season. Everyone else is on their rookie scale contract, minus Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a restricted free agent that the Spurs hope to retain this offseason.

San Antonio is gambling that the big salaries of Rudy Gay and Patty Mills will keep them from being selected. That exposes Trey Lyles, who has a relatively small guarantee, and young big man Chimezie Metu. The Spurs would like to keep both, but not at the expense of losing a rookie scale player.

Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic passes Jason Kidd to make Dallas history. At age 21.

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Luka Doncic passes Jason Kidd to make Dallas history. At age 21. It took 44 games into his rookie season before Luka Doncic racked up his first triple-double, notching it against the Bucks on Jan. 21, 2019.

In the 78 games since then, he has racked up 21 more. The latest came on Wednesday night when he scored 30 points, had 17 rebounds and 10 assists in a Dallas win against New Orleans.

That one moved Doncic past Jason Kidd for the most triple-doubles all-time in Mavericks’ history. Doncic just turned 21 six days ago. Jason Kidd is… well, Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. But also older. And it took him close to 500 games to get there.

Do you want even more record-setting history from the 21-year-old? Here you go:

Doncic — who is going to get some down-ballot MVP votes — picked up his 10th assist Wednesday with a sweet pocket pass to Kristaps Porzingis at a crucial point in overtime, this helped seal the Mavericks overtime win.

Porzingis had 34 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots in the Dallas victory. It continues his run of impressive plays as he has gotten his legs underneath him. It understandably took KP a while to bounce back from ACL surgery and 19 months away from the game — Mark Cuban suggested it would take a full season — but in February he averaged 25.2 points per game and shot 39.8 percent from three. He’s all the way back, and that Doncic/Porzingis pick-and-roll is going to be a problem for whoever gets them in the playoffs.

This was not a good night for the Pelicans, despite 27 from Brandon Ingram, 25 from Lonzo Ball (on 7-of-11 shooting from three), and 21 from Zion Williamson.

This loss, combined with Memphis blowing out Brooklyn, leaves New Orleans five games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 20 games to play. I don’t care how much easier the Pelicans’ schedule is the rest of the way (and it is much softer), that is likely too much ground to make up. We are not going to get our Zion vs. LeBron first-round matchup (not that Ja Morant vs. LeBron is a bad fallback).

2) Stephen Curry returns to the court Thursday night vs. Toronto. It was just four games into the season when Stephen curry suffered a fractured hand, a fluke play where Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along. It has been more than four long months of recovery.

The wait is finally over. After missing 58 games, Curry will return to the court on Thursday night in a Finals rematch against Toronto.

You think Curry is pumped?

Some fans/pundits had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has emphatically shot that idea down. With the flattened lottery odds, that level of tanking isn’t going to help, and besides, is this a draft worth tanking for? Better off getting Curry and Andrew Wiggins some time on the court together to see if that’s going to work (not “worth what we’ve got to pay Wiggins” level of work, just work at all).

3) Speaking of returns, Damian Lillard is back, scores 22 in Blazers win. Damian Lillard strained his groin in the final minutes of the final game before the All-Star break, which means he had to sit out the actually-interesting All-Star Game plus six games after action resumed.

He was back on Wednesday night and scored 22 as Portland knocked off Washington in a game where Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points.

Portland needed the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Blazers are just 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies (four games in the loss column) for the final playoff spot in the West with 20 games to play. Portland has a much easier schedule, but they need to keep racking up the wins and get a little help from Memphis to have a shot.