“I feel like I had a target on my back before I even got to the league because my family was always on TV and in the media,” wrote Ball. “So I knew coming in that every time I stepped on the court, I was gonna get everybody’s best.
“And you have to have a certain mindset to go out there every night with that target on your back and be able to take the hits and keep going,” he added.
The hype surrounding the 22-year-old Ball has died down ever since his trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Pelicans this past offseason. He is quietly averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game this year but has missed the last several games with an adductor injury.
As we get set to bring in the new NBA season, it’s fun to think about which players will be taking a big step forward. Who will emerge and open some eyes this year? Here are five NBA players who could be in line for breakout campaigns in 2019-2020.
5. Bam Adebayo, C, Heat
A big man with a lot of upside, Adebayo saw his minutes increase late in the season and started averaging a double-double as a result. Over his final 15 games, he averaged 11.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while getting 28 minutes per night. With Hassan Whiteside gone for good, Adebayo figures to get a significant role, which will give him every chance to keep that double-double advantage going as a regular starter.
4. Thomas Bryant, C, Wizards
The third-year center really started to flash his potential toward the end of last season, when the Wizards began to give him heavier minutes. Bryant averaged 31.6 minutes per game in his final ten games, averaging a double-double over that period with 16.5 points and 10.2 rebounds. Bryant is expected to get a bigger role for a Wizards team that won’t have a ton of talent, which could make him a focal point and put him in line for significant numbers.
3. Lonzo Ball, G, Pelicans
Ball is starting to shake off a lot of the issues that may have hindered the start of his NBA career. He’s no longer the Lakers’ prodigal son, and he’s started to free himself from Big Baller Brand and his father’s influence. He’s also found himself in an outstanding position in New Orleans, with plenty of weapons around him. Ball’s jumpshot still needs to improve, but he’ll be allowed to create for his Pelicans teammates. That, combined with his newfound freedom, could lead to significant improvement.
2. Jaren Jackson Jr., F, Grizzlies
Jackson started 56 games for Memphis last season, but they managed him carefully and generally held him under 30 minutes per night. Despite this, he still averaged 13 points per game, and there’s plenty of room to grow. He’s also a 35.9 percent three-point shooter, only adding to his upside. It wouldn’t take much of a leap for Jackson to jump above 15 points per game while getting more minutes and playing regularly if he can avoid injury.
1. Lauri Markkanen, F, Bulls
Markkanen’s first two NBA seasons have been full of tantalizing promise but injury limitations. He can score from inside and outside and rebound, and he’s averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in his first two seasons with the Bulls. He needs to stay healthy and play a full 82-game schedule, or at least something close to it. If he does that, he could easily become a 20-10 player, especially if the players around him keep improving.
Lonzo Ball is no longer part of Big Baller Brand and has joined Nike. He now seems to feel some freedom to speak honestly about the products he and his father LaVar were offering, including their high-priced shoes that sold for nearly $500.
Ball, who was traded by the Los Angeles Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans over the summer, joined teammate Josh Hart’s “LightHarted Podcast” for an interview. The two talked about Ball’s ZO2 Prime shoes.
“No one knows the real story about those shoes. They were not ready,” Ball admitted to Hart.
Ball said the shoes were so problematic that he switched pairs several times a game.
“I can get a quarter in, but that’s it. We got to switch them every quarter,” Ball said. “If you had my shoes from those games, they exploded bro.”
The shoes were so problematic that BBB switched to selling ZO2 Prime Remix shoes instead. Lonzo even seemed to suggest that his play suffered from wearing the original sneakers.
Lonzo Ball recently got a tattoo sleeve on his arm that features some truly incredible art work depicting historic black icons.
Tattoo artist Steve Butcher, who tattooed Ball’s sleeve, shared a video clip on Instagram Monday showing off the final piece. Butcher said Ball was 99 percent healed at the time the video was recorded.
Ball’s left arm tattoo sleeve features portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.
The detail and realness of each portrait is truly stunning. Butcher could not have done a better job on Ball’s arm.
Interestingly, when Ball entered the league in 2017, he did not have any tattoos on his body, in large part because his outspoken father LaVar frowned upon them. That has quickly changed. Lonzo got his first ones last year in solidarity with his brother, LiAngelo, and added a sleeve on his left arm last offseason.
“My brother got a bunch of them so I didn’t want him to be the only one in the family,” Ball told the LA Times. “My dad was pretty mad the first time. I used to have wristbands but they all snapped off so I figured I’d put them there permanently.”
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand were being relentlessly mocked for selling $500 sneakers. The ridicule still exists, but for a much different reason now.
At one of their pop-up shops over the weekend, Big Baller Brand was selling several items on clearance. Prices ranged from $5 for T-shirts and hats to $100 for a package that includes a T-shirt, hoodie, pair of shoes and pair of socks.
When the Big Baller Brand first launched, Lonzo Ball’s signatures shoes were selling for $495. Hats and T-shirts were around $50. Many people thought the prices were absurd, but LaVar Ball insisted all of the items were selling at a furious pace and his family was making money in bundles.
Not so much, anymore. Lonzo recently distanced himself from BBB, and he had a pretty good reason for doing so. That has almost certainly had a negative impact on the brand, and you have to wonder how much longer they can stay in business with clearance prices like that.
Lonzo Ball seems pretty excited to play with Zion Williamson.
Ball was full of praise for his New Orleans Pelicans teammate on Saturday, describing him as a “freak” and raving about his mobility.
“Man, I’ve never seen somebody that size move like him,” Ball told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “… He’s only 19, right? He’s definitely a freak. I’ve never seen nothing like it.
“Honestly, you just got to run the lane, set screens and roll. With his game and with him getting a full head of steam, it’s going to be very tough to stop him. So I think we play fast and get out on the break as soon as possible.”
Ball has already thought about how to best bring out Williamson’s talents, which is a good sign. It seems he has a much higher opinion of his new teammate than his father does, which is really all that will matter to the Pelicans.
LaVar Ball does not seem to be taking the trade of his son well at all.
LaVar was at the Drew League in Los Angeles to watching his youngest son, LaMelo, play on Saturday when news that his son was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans broke. Ball was visibly upset at the trade news.
Later in an interview, he told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the Lakers would regret the deal and never win a championship again.
LaVar Ball on the Lakers trading Lonzo Ball: ‘I guarantee… it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship. Guarantee it.” pic.twitter.com/Q1pxopsEdP
LaVar has kept his big mouth mostly shut over the past several months. If he doesn’t like what he sees with the Pelicans, expect him to be vocal about it very quickly. He’s already made noise in the past that he preferred his son to be traded to Phoenix.
LaVar Ball did not have the best reaction upon learning his son had been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, according to one observer.
Los Angeles-area high school sports reporter Dylan Stewart tweeted that LaVar was at the Drew League Saturday to watch youngest son LaMelo play and looked visibly upset upon hearing the trade news announced.
LaVar Ball is here at the Drew League, looking very visually upset when the announcer confirmed the Lonzo Ball news.
LaVar’s vision included all three of his sons playing on the Lakers. While the Lakers did draft Lonzo No. 2 overall in 2017, they ended up trading him as part of the package to acquire Davis as they aim to seize a window of opportunity next season, spoiling Ball’s vision.
What’s interesting is what will happen with Lonzo in New Orleans; LaVar previously indicated he did not want his son playing there. Will they try to force a trade or give it a chance since the Pelicans’ future is looking positive with Zion Williamson and the No. 4 pick coming?
This is the start of a major offseason for the Pelicans as they look to rebuild their team. The only player they have under contract long term is Jrue Holiday. They will likely be adding Zion Williamson in the draft, which will give them a great core. On top of that, they have added Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, and they will have the opportunity to add another major player with the No. 4 pick. Plus they’ll have two future first-round picks from the Lakers to add.
David Griffin is doing major work in laying a foundation for the Pelicans during his first month on the job as their franchise leader.
The Los Angeles Lakers are involved in trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, and some information about players they’re willing to include in a deal is being reported.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported on Wednesday that the Lakers are willing to include Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in deals, as well as the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Interestingly, Stein says it seems like the Lakers are trying to keep Kyle Kuzma out of trade talks.
My sense is that the Lakers, to this point, have tried to keep Kyle Kuzma out of the talks and the full package New Orleans would receive in an Anthony Davis deal obviously depends on what the third team provides
During the reported trade talks between the Lakers and Pelicans prior to the trade deadline earlier this season, the Lakers were said to have made nearly everyone on their roster available, including Kuzma. It’s unclear whether their mind has changed, Magic Johnson’s resignation, or any other factor is playing a role in this.
Kuzma and Ball are under team control for an extra year over Ingram, who was drafted the year before. Kuzma is also the cheapest of the three and a relative bargain at his salary. He is on schedule to earn about a third of what Ball will be earning on his rookie deal.
The big kicker that could affect a trade is the No. 4 pick. Stein believes if the Pelicans feel they can draft a potential All-Star with the pick, they would find a way to make a deal.