Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball has visions of an All-Star appearance as a sophomore for his Charlotte Hornets.
If what we saw in the team’s season opener against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday evening is an indication, the 20-year-old Ball might very well be up to the task.
The stud young guard dominated Indiana to the tune of 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He matched a career-high seven three-pointers while shooting 7-of-9 from distance and 11-of-23 from the field in Charlotte’s thrilling 123-122 home win. Ball also anchored an offense that turned the ball over a mere eight times while dishing out nine assists.
The performance was something.
Everything is starting to slow down and come natural for LaMelo Ball. These highlights are a prime example of that. Opposing defenses must now account for his long-range ability after the kid shot 35% from distance as a rookie.
LaMelo Ball as a true superstar for the Charlotte Hornets
To say that the former No. 3 pick is the franchise cornerstone in Charlotte would be an understatement. Working under the legendary Michael Jordan (Charlotte’s owner), Ball doesn’t envision a scenario where he’s going to bolt town any time soon.
“You supposed to just go to a team and build from there. I feel like that’s how it should be,” Ball said ahead of Charlotte’s season opener. “Especially when you like a high pick too, most likely going to a team that wasn’t as good, so you try to make them better. I feel like that’s the whole process right there.”
This has to be music to the ears of Hornets fans and the Charlotte community as a whole. Not since the days of Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson in the 1990s has Charlotte boasted a player with star appeal such as Ball.
Unlike those two all-time franchise greats, it doesn’t seem like LaMelo Ball is looking to move on to greener pastures. The No. 1 overall pick of the Hornets back in 1991, Johnson bolted for New York City after just five seasons. Mourning was the No. 2 pick the following year, and left for South Beach after just three seasons.
Drafting and retaining core player(s) has been a major goal for Jordan during his highly-questionable tenure as the Hornets’ owner. It now seems like Ball is buying in. It’s also seems like the Hornets’ brass is buying in to its new superstar.
“Melo has played off of instinct his whole life,” head coach James Borrego said. “What makes him special is his feel and instinct, which none of us can teach. Now it’s about raising his basketball IQ, where he’s taking information, processing it, and now applying it to an NBA game. That’s his next level. The details of winning an NBA game this season will be more valued through his lens.”
Now, one game isn’t going to define Ball’s rookie season. That much is a given. However, he outplayed an All-Star caliber player in Malcolm Brogdon in a matchup of two top-end point guards in Charlotte’s season opener. That can’t be lost in all of this.
It also comes after Ball averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists on 44% shooting as a teenager a year ago.
Things are surely looking up for the young point guard and his team.