Zion Williamson

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Lonzo Ball says younger brother LaMelo “has a chance to be a better player than me”

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Most people jumped off the bandwagon for LaMelo Ball — the youngest of the Ball brothers — long ago because he got caught up in the Big Baller Brand mess, ended up playing in Lithuania, and there was a perception he loved to score but didn’t enjoy playing defense or putting in the work.

That tide started to turn last year. Reports from people who had seen Ball at the Spire Institute school in Ohio said promising things: Ball was maturing, he was 6’6″ with handles, had gotten serious about his game, and was starting to look like a quality NBA-level prospect. This season, Ball is putting up numbers in the Australian professional league and could well be a high draft pick next June.

Lonzo Ball sat down with Shams Charania of The Athletic to talk about his tabula rasa in New Orleans and the opportunity that provides, but he provided this note about the youngest Ball brother.

“’Melo has a chance to be a better player than me, for sure,” Ball told The Athletic. “I feel at the same age, he’s better than me. In real time, I don’t think he’s better than me.”

Then Ball smiled and said, “But I’m the big brother so I’m always going to have that edge over him.”

LaMelo has a lot to prove still, but he was long considered the most naturally talented of the three. He seems to be tapping into those skills.

Look for a breakout year from Lonzo — if he can just stay healthy. Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system should fit Ball well. Plus, if you throw alley-oops to Zion Williamson, you end up in a lot of highlights. Ball and Jrue Holiday form one of the best defensive backcourts in the league. This is a real opportunity for Lonzo.

But in five years, we may well think Lonzo was only the second-best baller in his family.

It’s just preseason, but Zion Williamson has 55 points on 21-of-25 shooting last two games

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It’s only preseason. The games don’t matter, young players are on the court, and the veterans are often going through the motions. We all know we shouldn’t take too much away from these games.

Yet, in his last two games, Zion Williamson has a combined 55 points on 21-of-25 shooting (1-of-1 from three) with eight rebounds. He has gotten to the line 17 times in those two games. That includes 26 points on Friday night against the Jazz.

That man is a beast already.

He’s a rookie, he’s got holes in his game, there are going to be ups and downs. We understand that.

But you can’t take your eyes off him. And while it’s just preseason, he is impressing.

Watch Zion Williamson score 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting (video)

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Zion Williamson‘s dunks draw the most attention.

But the No. 1 pick can do so much more.

Williamson threw down a couple dunks, sure. He also showed his face-up game – the ball-handling, mobility, touch and passing – while scoring 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting in the Pelicans’ preseason win over the Bulls last night.

The lingering question: New Orleans will be fun, but how good? The Pelicans’ 127-125 victory confirmed the fun part, but left questions about their team quality. New Orleans was largely outplayed with its starters – including Williamson (-18) – then rallied when teams went to reserves later. But maybe that’s just how the Pelicans will play this season. They are deep.

While playing for Pelicans, Kendrick Perkins sold Anthony Davis on LeBron James, Rich Paul

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The Pelicans signed Alexis Ajinca to a four-year, $20 million contract. They signed Solomon Hill to a four-year, $48 million contract. They signed Omer Asik to a five-year, $60 million contract.

But their worst signing might have been giving Kendrick Perkins a one-year, minimum-salary contract in 2015.

Perkins came from Cleveland, where he made a strong impression on LeBron James. Apparently, the feeling was mutual – as Perkins eagerly shared with Anthony Davis.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

BACK IN 2015, NBA journeyman center Kendrick Perkins landed in New Orleans, where he would play one season alongside Davis on the Pelicans. On the road, the two would frequently break bread together, and their dinner conversations would often turn toward James, whom Perkins had played with on the AAU circuit as a teenager. They were also teammates in Cleveland during James’ second stint with the Cavs. During those dinners, Perkins would gush about the four-time MVP’s focus and preparation.

“I used to brag about Bron a lot with him,” Perkins says. “He really didn’t have to ask me [about James]. I was doing more of the talking.”

In the summer of 2018, when word got out that Davis could be looking for a new agent, it was Perkins who introduced Davis to Klutch Sports.

Of course, Davis signed with Rich Paul then requested a trade. Paul steered Davis to LeBron’s Lakers.

To be fair, Perkins isn’t solely responsible. The Pelicans repeatedly failed to build a winner around Davis. They also play in small-market New Orleans, which makes it more difficult to retain stars. Davis is responsible for his own choices.

Still, it’s easy to see Perkins planting a seed. And to think the Pelicans paid him to do so! Veteran mentorship is rarely what it’s cracked up to be. Everyone has their own interests, and those don’t always neatly align with their current team’s goals.

Though the Pelicans would’ve obviously preferred to keep Davis, they still got a haul from Los Angeles. Coupled with landing No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, New Orleans is in good shape.

Otherwise, this story would’ve stung even more.

Los Angeles wins as superstar duos drive ticket sales, StubHub data shows

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“Staples Center is the biggest winner of the summer,” LeBron James said back on Lakers’ media day. “If you’re a fan of the game of basketball, you get an opportunity to see the Clippers one night, then you get an opportunity to see the Lakers,”

StubHub’s data backs him up.

The Lakers — with LeBron James and now Anthony Davis — remain the most in-demand ticket in the NBA for the third straight season, according to data from the world’s largest ticket marketplace, StubHub, released to NBC Sports. However, demand for Clippers tickets is up 821 percent from one year ago, a direct impact of the team landing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, vaulting the Clippers to second on the in-demand list.

The two most in-demand NBA tickets at StubHub are opening night in Los Angeles, with the Lakers at the Clippers, and the Christmas Day clash between those same two teams.

“For a long time, the Clippers have played little brother to the Lakers, but if you look at the data of our ticket demand for the Clippers this year, it’s through the roof,” said Akshay Khanna, general manager of the NBA at StubHub. “And that’s being driven by them having acquired two of the biggest stars in the NBA. Combine that with the Lakers having two of the biggest stars of their own and you have a market that is basketball crazy, one that is ready for what could be a really historic rivalry.”

That star power is not just driving ticket demand in Los Angeles — superstar duos around the NBA are drawing interest from fans.

“When we look at demand for teams outside those two Los Angeles teams, it’s teams like Houston, teams like Brooklyn, teams like Philadelphia, teams that have two alpha stars, that’s a star-driven storyline as well…” Khanna said. “NBA fans are banging down the door to see these teams that made massive offseason moves… We’re seeing fans being attracted to stars, and to some extent that is a uniquely NBA thing.”

Part of that is NBA stars move around more than stars in other sports, creating a real buzz among fans, in the media, and on social media. That doesn’t happen in baseball as much, with players often getting longer contracts. In the NFL, the biggest name quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Phillip Rivers — have played their entire career for one team.

A question for NBA owners has been, “how do we turn all this social media buzz into dollar signs?” Well, the teams spending the money are seeing a bump at the gate.

“When we look at our data, as stars move, demand for attendance for those games increases,” Khanna said. “And the really interesting aspect of that is it’s not limited to the United States. When we look at our international data, when we look at demand for the NBA outside the United States… [Ed. Note: for both NBA regular season and preseason games played overseas] sure enough the demand is for the big market teams that have the stars. That makes sense, fans are going to gravitate toward those teams if they haven’t grown up with an allegiance.”

There are young teams on the rise seeing a big jump in interest as well, and none as big as what Zion Williamson has brought to New Orleans, where ticket demand is up 323 percent.

“It is Zion driven, but in the Anthony Davis trade the Pelicans also acquired a really rich cast of exciting talent to pair alongside Zion…” Khanna said. “I’m sure we will see them be a big draw not just in New Orleans but in whatever cities they visit. Everyone wants to get a piece of Zion, that’s for sure.”

We know the NBA is a star’s league, and that hasn’t changed. The Warriors with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (in their new building, which also creates ticket demand), the Celtics with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Miami with Jimmy Butler, are all in the top 10.

As are the Philadelphia 76ers, a team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (and with a StubHub patch on their jerseys).

“They are one of the two clear favorites to make it out of the East, and they have two very marketable stars,” Khanna said. “Embiid is one of the top five or seven players in the league and his social media presence is outsized for a guy is 7’2”. What’s interesting is both of their stars are international, so they draw an audience not just in Philadelphia but in their home countries. We’re seeing that demand reflected in our data.”

That data backs the old business adage “you have to spend money to make money.” It’s always been that way in the NBA, too. At least if you want to sell a lot of tickets. Something Steve Ballmer and the Clippers have figured out.