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Friday, October 19, 2018

Basketball

5 NBA rookies who could have a better season than Lonzo Ball

Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball is the marquee attraction of the NBA’s 2017 rookie class. Part of it is the marquee franchise, part of it is his college career, and part of it is definitely his outspoken father, but it’s safe to say we will be hearing about the former UCLA guard more than any other rookie this season.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Ball will be at the top of his class, though he may be favored to be. He’s well-equipped to find instant success at the NBA level, but here are five other young studs that have a chance to outshine him.

5) Jonathan Isaac, Orlando

Isaac flies under the radar a bit because he’s not an off-the-charts flashy player and played his one year of college basketball at Florida State — not a particularly flashy basketball school. He is, however, expected to be an immediate contributor to an Orlando team that will need it.

Isaac is a versatile forward who, while not yet an elite scorer, can impact the game in many ways. He’s a solid defender who can score when needed, with a growing shot from outside. He has strong potential as a rebounder, and he has the type of length and athleticism that makes scouts drool.

The odds are low that Isaac outdoes Ball in terms of scoring and assists right away. However, he may offer a more complete game than his counterpart, stuff a few stat sheets, and prove more impactful off the bat.

4) Josh Jackson, Phoenix

The Suns have wholeheartedly embraced a youth movement, meaning Jackson should see plenty of action right away. He should provide Phoenix with an athletic freak who can impact a game both offensively and defensively.

A hard worker, Jackson showed at Kansas that he can score and rebound, and he has shown the ability to be a quality passer as well. As a playmaker, he isn’t Ball, but he can set up teammates very nicely in his own right. Surrounded by shooters like Devin Booker, Jackson will have options around him and will be able to share the load offensively enough that his own jump shot being a work in progress won’t be a killer. He could put up big numbers.

3) Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas

Let’s let an NBA coach tell you just how highly Smith is thought of.

A 6-foot-2 guard who plays like he’s a lot bigger than that, Smith will get the keys to a Dallas offense that still features Dirk Nowitzki. He can score, he can get to the basket, he can pass, and he can basically do everything Ball can, which means these two will make for an intriguing comparison as they begin playing actual games. He brings with him a swagger that would make LaVar Ball proud, too — don’t expect him to be overawed by the NBA. He’s been a Summer League standout and may really open some eyes this season.

2) De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento

Fox will certainly be super motivated about being better than Ball, his Pacific Division rival. He’s admitted before that he wants to get the better of him and hasn’t stopped saying it, even in Summer League.

Fox’s mid-range jumper is still being polished but, hey, so is Ball’s, and Fox does so much else well. He’s quick, elusive, and exceptional at driving to the basket. He has good passing ability, though he’s still learning how to make the most of it. Perhaps most importantly, the rebuilding Kings will give him every opportunity they can to get on the court and learn the NBA game, meaning Fox will have plenty of opportunities to score and assist this season. He’ll be motivated, too — he does want to get the best of Ball, make no mistake.

1) Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia

Well, he is, after all, the No. 1 overall pick. The latest part of The Process is the one figure on this list with arguably the best chance of making the playoffs this season, and that alone gives him a leg up on Ball. Fultz will be surrounded by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and J.J. Redick, and that should give him no shortage of opportunities to both score and assist for the Sixers.

Fultz can well and truly do it all. A potentially elite scorer, skilled dribbler, and quality passer, there’s a strong argument to be made that he is a better all-around guard than Ball is due to his more pronounced scoring ability. He will, as mentioned, have a better supporting cast than Ball, provided his teammates stay healthy.

One might argue that, with all this taken into account, Fultz will post a more successful rookie campaign than Ball will. Some fellow rookies feel the same way. Don’t sleep on Ball, though — he may not be the pure scorer Fultz is, but he’s a better passer at this stage. Fultz is definitely the biggest threat to Ball’s status as Rookie of the Year favorite, though, and the two should be fun to watch once the NBA’s regular season gets underway.

Lonzo Ball admits he’s trying to start bidding war between shoe companies

Lonzo Ball has worn shoes made by companies other than Big Baller Brand during Summer League games, and the result may be a competition between rival brands to sign the Lakers rookie.

For as well as Ball has played recently during the exhibition games, his choices of footwear have almost been as big a story as his play on the court. Ball, of course, has his own signature shoe with Big Baller Brand. However, over his last three games, he has worn signature shoes of Kobe Bryant (Nike), James Harden (Adidas), and Stephen Curry (Under Armour).

On Sunday, Ball switched it up again, going with the Jordan 31s for the Lakers’ game against the Mavericks. Prior to the game, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth asked Ball if he was trying to start a bidding war. His response was quite telling.

Over the weekend, LaVar Ball told ESPN that the point of his son switching brands was to make a statement. Lavar also said there is still a chance Lonzo could sign with a major brand. We already know which one LeBron James thinks Ball should choose.

Report: Bucks, Derrick Rose still have not met

Derrick Rose

The Milwaukee Bucks have interest in Derrick Rose, but it doesn’t seem to be going any further than that for the moment.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports, the Bucks and Rose have yet to meet despite their ongoing mutual interest.

Rose does not seem to be in any hurry to make a free agent decision. A number of teams have been linked to him, with the Bucks outright confirming their own interest. As of this point, though, Rose does not appear to have had any substantial negotiations or come particularly close to signing with any interested party.

Dwight Howard claims he never had beef with Kobe Bryant

Dwight Howard

Revisionist history or not, Dwight Howard wants to set the record straight about his relationship with Kobe Bryant.

Responding to a question from a Twitter user on Sunday, the eight-time All-Star center claimed that rumors of him beefing with Bryant in Los Angeles were nothing more than a media fabrication.

The one season that Howard and Bryant were teammates on the Lakers in 2012-13 was tainted by reports of feuding between the two, something that Howard admitted to an extent while he was still a Laker. The bad blood also appeared to continue after Howard’s departure for the Houston Rockets.

After being traded to Charlotte this offseason, Howard is now on his fourth NBA team in five years. He hasn’t exactly proven to be the easiest teammate to get along with, so it’s hard to believe that there was no beef at all between him and Bryant, who was notorious for being tough on his own teammates.

Kendrick Perkins wants to make NBA comeback

Kendrick Perkins is ready to return to the NBA.

The veteran center told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe that he wants to be a backup in the league again and thinks he can help a team.

“The body feels good, man, I’m just sitting here waiting on an opportunity,” Perkins said. “Hopefully I can get a training camp invite soon. I want to earn my way. I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. So I’ve been working hard, going two or three times a day, working and grinding. I’m just trying to stay with it.”

Perkins said the year off allowed him to feel healthier, but gave him important perspective as he was away from the game.

“You’re sitting back, waiting on a job, you want in and not just sitting around the house. I wasn’t ready for that in that point in my life,” he said. “I think it was a very humbling situation for me. I thought it made me realize the importance and not to take it for granted.”

Perkins got a bit of interest last summer, but obviously nothing came of it. He was a very effective center once upon a time, but at age 32 with a torn ACL to his name, it’s not clear how much he has left.

CJ McCollum posts image of Carmelo Anthony in Blazers uniform to Instagram

CJ McCollum

CJ McCollum is doing his best to use the power of suggestion to his advantage.

In a post to his Instagram account on Sunday, McCollum shared an image of Carmelo Anthony in a Portland Trail Blazers uniform, tagging Anthony in it.

A post shared by CJMcCollum (@3jmccollum) on

Anthony had only very recently been mentioned in connection with Portland, and a trade to the Houston Rockets still seems like the most likely scenario. But McCollum has attempted to shoot his shot with many an All-Star forward in the last few months, and he’s not about to stop trying now.

Report: Heat given ‘zero indication’ LeBron James has interest in returning

LeBron James

LeBron James triggered some speculation about a possible return to the Miami Heat with some of his social media activity over the weekend, but the team does not have any reason to believe James has given consideration to it.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Heat are operating under the assumption that LeBron will either re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers next summer or join the Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s the Instagram post that got some people buzzing:

A ton of great memories riding past her today!! #AAA #striveforgreatness

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

It appears James was simply visiting Miami, and Jackson reports that the Heat have been given “zero indication” a possible reunion is on the table.

Had it not been for Dwyane Wade leaving Miami, the thought of LeBron returning to the Heat and someone like Carmelo Anthony joining him would be more realistic. The most likely scenario is still that he remains in Cleveland, especially with how much stronger the Western Conference has gotten this offseason.

LeBron would likely only go to the Lakers if Lonzo Ball looks like a stud in his rookie season and Paul George is also signing with the team. And even then, his easiest path back to the NBA Finals will be in the Eastern Conference, where he doesn’t have to face the Golden State Warriors.

While some of the things that have gone on in Cleveland this summer make the future look somewhat dark, the Cavs are still the best team in the East. If they can add another piece of two, LeBron should be content sticking around.