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#pounditThursday, October 21, 2021

Lonzo Ball

Could Bulls lose first-round pick in Lonzo Ball tampering case?

Lonzo Ball

The NBA is investigating the Chicago Bulls over its acquisition of Lonzo Ball this summer. One report says that the Bulls could be subject to significant discipline.

The Bulls agreed to a four-year, $85 million deal with Ball. Terms of the deal were reported as soon as the free agency negotiation window opened on Aug. 2. By Aug. 7, we learned that the Bulls were being investigated for potentially tampering with Ball given how quickly news of his Bulls contract was reported.

The New Orleans Pelicans ended up working a sign-and-trade with the Bulls for Tomas Satoranský, Garrett Temple, cash and a 2024 2nd-round draft pick.

The results of the tampering investigation have not yet been announced. But on Monday, 670 The Score in Chicago’s Cody Westerlund reported that “there’s a belief in some NBA circles that the Bulls could be docked a first-round draft pick.”

The Bulls being stripped of a first-round pick over their Ball sign-and-trade would be extreme. But some apparently think such a punishment is in the cards.

Recall that two years ago, the NBA said it was making an effort to crack down on tampering. Whether the Bulls end up being penalized harshly is a different matter.

Lonzo Ball appears to take shot at Pelicans after departure

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball seems to think that there is a much better basketball opportunity awaiting him on his new team than there was on his old team.

At his introductory press conference with the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Ball appeared to take a shot at his former club, the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball said that he wanted to go somewhere he would be appreciated and could play his game. He added that the Bulls “wanted me for me.”

This definitely reads as shade towards the Pelicans, a team where Ball’s role never seemed to suit him. The 23-year-old is at his best as a playmaker in open court and halfcourt situations. But New Orleans often used Ball as more of a role player, asking him to focus on spot-up shooting and defense.

Ball agreed to a deal with the Bulls right after free agency officially began. That indicates that he was never truly considering a return to New Orleans. The Pelicans themselves also seemed to treat Ball as if he was already gone. Thus, it is not hard to interpret Ball’s comments as a shot at his old team.

Lonzo Ball agrees to four-year, $85 million contract with Bulls

Lonzo Ball

The Chicago Bulls are getting their playmaking point guard in the form of Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s agent, Rich Paul, told Shams Charania of The Athletic that Ball has agreed to a four-year, $85 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. Ball is a restricted free agent, so the New Orleans Pelicans have the right to match the offer. However, they are instead closing in on a sign-and-trade that will bring back Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple.

Ball addresses a clear need for Chicago. The team leaned on the likes of Coby White and Satoransky at point guard last season, and neither seemed an ideal fit. White is also out for several months after offseason shoulder surgery, making Chicago’s need even more urgent.

The Bulls have been strongly linked to Ball for a while. The 23-year-old is coming off the best season of his career so far, averaging 14.6 points and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range. He should operate in a playmaking role for both Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

Bulls reportedly the favorite to sign Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball

The New Orleans Pelicans are not expected to bring back restricted free agent Lonzo Ball, and it appears a clear favorite to sign the point guard has emerged.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said during NBA TV’s free agency special on Saturday that the Chicago Bulls are expected to sign Ball. Haynes added that Ball will only land elsewhere if there is a major “hiccup,” according to Mark Schanowski of ABC-7 in Chicago.

That meshes with what Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer was told this week, which is that there is mutual interest between Ball and the Bulls on a four-year deal worth around $80 million.

Ball averaged 14.6 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game with the Pelicans this season. He is not a player that executive David Griffin drafted, which is one reason it has been widely assumed that New Orleans will move on from him.

Pelicans do not expect Lonzo Ball to return?

Lonzo Ball

The New Orleans Pelicans may be pre-packing Lonzo Ball’s bags for him.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported on Tuesday about New Orleans’ negotiations with Jacque Vaughn as their potential next head coach. Fischer notes that, during a dinner with Vaughn, Pelicans executive David Griffin pitched his vision for a starting backcourt of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis as well as his ideas for how to fill out Vaughn’s entire coaching staff. These negotiations reportedly led to Vaughn removing his name from consideration for the New Orleans job. Fischer adds that Griffin has wielded significant influence in New Orleans in areas such as minutes and skill development, primarily with players he has drafted.

One player that Griffin notably did not draft is Ball, who was acquired in the 2019 trade for Anthony Davis. Ball will also be a restricted free agent this offseason and has essentially been a full-time starter for his entire career.

The Pelicans tabbed Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green to be their next coach instead. But if Griffin indeed wants a starting backcourt of Alexander-Walker and Lewis, both of whom he drafted, the team could easily let Ball walk in free agency. One rival in particular may be hoping for exactly that.

Lakers will try to reunite with Lonzo Ball?

Lonzo Ball

The Big Baller Prince of Chino Hills could be making his way back home.

Veteran journalist Marc Stein reports this week that the Los Angeles Lakers covet one more difference-making playmaker. The reason is so that LeBron James and Anthony Davis can spend more time at the power forward and center positions, respectively. Stein adds to expect the Lakers to search for pathways to re-acquire Lonzo Ball for that very reason.

Ball, 23, will be a restricted free agent this offseason. He was drafted by the Lakers No. 2 overall in 2017 and spent the first two seasons of his career with them before being sent to New Orleans in the Davis blockbuster.

There is some urgency for the Lakers at the point guard spot with incumbent Dennis Schroder, a free agent as well, seemingly pricing himself out of their range. Ball also sparked reunion hysteria via a recent Twitter exchange with James. Thus, Laker fans who haven’t already recycled them might be wise to hold onto their Ball jerseys for now.

LeBron James, Lonzo Ball spark rumors with tweets to each other

LeBron James

Those who were fans of the “LeBronzo” era in Los Angeles got a bit of a treat this week.

New Orleans guard Lonzo Ball appeared recently on UNINTERRUPTED’s “Who’s Interviewing Who?” In the episode, Ball said that the best advice he has gotten in his career so far was from ex-Los Angeles Lakers teammate LeBron James, who told him to “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Ball tweeted out a link to the episode on Friday and tagged James. The four-time MVP then responded by saying that he was “always a text, a phone call, or FT [FaceTime] away.”

The exchange promptly sparked rumors from fans, who began wondering if it was a sign that Ball might be coming back to Los Angeles.

Ball was teammates with James on the Lakers during the 2018-19 season and has often said that The King was his favorite player growing up. But the partnership was short-lived as Ball was sent to New Orleans in 2019 as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

Still, a Ball return to LA is far from impossible. Current Lakers starting point guard Dennis Schroder is hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason and may not be back with the team. Fellow backcourt pieces Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, and Talen Horton-Tucker will all be free agents as well. Ball is himself a restricted free agent, so maybe Laker fans can dream a bit here.

Zion Williamson wants Lonzo Ball back with Pelicans

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson definitely does not want to lose his alley-oop partner.

During his exit interview on Monday, the New Orleans Pelicans star told reporters that he would like Lonzo Ball to re-sign with the team.

“It’d be dope,” said Williamson of Ball potentially returning, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “Me, Brandon [Ingram] and Zo, the three of us have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back. He knows that.

“But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is Zo is a grown man, so he’ll make the decision that’s best for him,” Williamson added. “The only thing I can say is, I hope he stays.”

Ball, 23, is coming off his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. That means that the Pelicans can match any offer sheet that Ball signs with another team.

For his part, Ball said in his own exit interview that he would “love” to be back in New Orleans but would need to have the discussion with his agent.

A big contract may be awaiting Ball following his best offensive season yet. He put up 14.6 points a game on 41/38/78 shooting splits, all career-highs. But there is uncertainty whether Ball will actually return to the Pelicans, so it may not be as simple as Williamson is hoping for here.

Could Pelicans sign-and-trade Lonzo Ball this summer?

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball manage to survive the trade deadline, but the coming offseason could be a different story.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez reported Friday that the New Orleans Pelicans discussed a potential Ball trade with several teams at the deadline. Some executives from those teams came away with the impression that the 23-year-old guard could be made available as part of a sign-and-trade this summer.

Ball will be a restricted free agent in the offseason. He is positioning himself for a solid deal with 14.5 points per game this season on 42.4 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from deep, all career-highs. But injuries are still a constant concern for Ball, who has missed almost the entire month of April with issues in both his hips.

If Ball decides he does not want to return to New Orleans, a sign-and-trade would be a way of assuring that they at least get some assets for him. We know that the ex-No. 2 overall pick is eyeing some big-name teams as well.

Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, LaMarcus Aldridge not traded before deadline

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball and LaMarcus Aldridge are all players who were mentioned heavily in trade rumors ahead of the deadline. But the deadline has passed, and none of the three players were dealt.

Lowry’s name was in trade rumors for the last few months. He even seemed to give a goodbye to TV cameras on Wednesday night, but the Raptors did not find a trade partner for him. He is scheduled to be a free agent after the season.

Lonzo Ball was also mentioned in trade rumors. The New Orleans Pelicans ended up keeping him, but they did deal away shooting guard JJ Redick. The Pelicans could still keep Ball for another season before he would be a restricted free agent.

Aldridge and the Spurs agreed two weeks ago to part ways. However, San Antonio did not trade Aldridge. Instead, the two sides may end up agreeing to a contract buyout that would make Aldridge eligible to sign with other teams.

Even though these three players were not traded, there were still plenty of big moves made. Rajon Rondo and Lou Williams were swapped in a deal. The Orlando Magic unloaded many of their top players. And Victor Oladipo was sent to Miami in a big move.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0