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#pounditSunday, November 28, 2021

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball has surprising admission about his time with Lakers

Lonzo Ball warming up

The Los Angeles Lakers picking UCLA product and L.A. native Lonzo Ball in 2017 seemed almost too good of a story to be true, and it turns out that it was. Now Ball is offering some interesting reflections on his time with them.

The Chicago Bulls guard spoke this week to Dime Magazine and made an admission about his Lakers career — that he failed to meet expectations.

“This is my third team in five years and every team’s been a different experience for myself,” said Ball. “Obviously, coming to L.A., I was a young kid with a lot of expectations put on me that I didn’t really live up to.

“Then [I] got shipped off to New Orleans, where I worked on my game and improved the areas that needed the most help in,” Ball went on. “Now I’m the player I am in Chicago, one of the key guys and trying to contribute every night in and night out.”

Ball, who turned 24 this past October, was just 19 years old when the Lakers drafted him. His growing pains were pronounced as a rookie, especially his wobbly shooting ability. The scrutiny only intensified when LeBron James arrived on the Lakers in 2018, a move that changed the overall trajectory of both the franchise as well as of Ball’s development. Ball was eventually traded to the Pelicans in 2019 as part of the Anthony Davis deal.

In New Orleans and now in Chicago, Ball has flown more under the radar and has quietly been able to develop his game into that of a strong all-around winning piece. As for his time with the Lakers though, there is probably another reason why Ball had such massive expectations then.

Photo: Mar 26, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball warms up before their game against the Denver Nuggets at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

NBA teams facing significant penalties over Lonzo Ball, Kyle Lowry tampering

Lonzo Ball warming up

The NBA teams that are the focus of tampering investigations regarding the deals involving Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry are facing significant penalties.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the NBA is getting closer to completing its investigation into the Ball and Lowry transactions. The findings and penalties from the investigation could be released soon, according to Woj.

The penalties on the table are significant. Teams could be fined as much as $10 million; team executives could be suspended; teams could forfeit draft picks; and contracts could even be voided. Woj notes that a contract being voided is unlikely.

The Chicago Bulls acquired Ball in a sign-and-trade deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. The deal was reported almost immediately when the free agency legal tampering period began, though it wasn’t completed until Aug. 8.

The Miami Heat acquired Lowry in a sign-and-trade deal with the Toronto Raptors. The deal was completed on Aug. 6 but Lowry announced an hour into free agency on Aug. 2 that he would be signing with Miami.

Sign-and-trade deals can be complex to pull off. So when the deals were reported so quickly, red flags apparently were raised for the league.

The NBA has been reviewing electronic messages from agents and team executives during their investigation. The Bulls, Pelicans, Heat and Raptors are the four teams being investigated by the league.

One reporter already suggested the Bulls are facing a pretty serious penalty from the league.

Photo: Mar 26, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball warms up before their game against the Denver Nuggets at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Lonzo Ball has unflattering comment about former team

Lonzo Ball warming up

Lonzo Ball’s former teammates might not be too happy about a recent comment that he made.

The Chicago Bulls released a video to YouTube this week giving a behind-the-scenes look of their start to the season. The video included a clip of Ball addressing his teammates during practice ahead of Chicago’s opening game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Ball’s old team. Ball shared his scouting report on the Pelicans and made an unflattering remark about them.

“They don’t really wanna pass the ball,” he said. ” BI [Brandon Ingram] is trying to get to the mid-range, and Nickeil [Alexander-Walker] wants to get to the layup.”

Ball was with the Pelicans for the last two seasons and had been teammates with Ingram in particular for his entire career, dating back to their time on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bulls would go on to win that game 128-112.

The difference has to feel stark for the former No. 2 overall pick Ball. After going a combined 61-83 (.424) in New Orleans, Ball has now helped lead the Bulls to a 6-1 record, tied for best in the NBA. Ball also had more shade for the Pelicans right after he left, so it sounds like there is no love lost there.

Photo: Mar 26, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball warms up before their game against the Denver Nuggets at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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.