At 19 years and 140 days old, LaMelo Ball became the youngest NBA player in history to record a triple-double — and he hadn’t even started the game, which was only the 10th of his rookie season in Charlotte.
It took another 11 games for Ball, the youngest of the three Ball brothers who led Chino Hills High to an undefeated state championship five years ago, to enter the starting lineup. Entering matchups this week against the Lakers Thursday and the Clippers on Saturday in his return to Southern California, Ball has averaged 19.5 points, 6.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds as a starter, making 43% of his 3-pointers, while becoming a favorite to win rookie of the year.
In the Western Conference, meanwhile, oldest brother Lonzo continued a season in which he has averaged career-bests in points (14.2) and shooting by dropping a career-high 17 assists this week.
These are heady times for the brothers, but their father, LaVar, said he won’t be satisfied until a team takes a chance to reunite all three.
“Everybody is shocked on what Melo is doing now and here’s the thing: When all three of them get on the same team it’s going to be the biggest thing in the NBA,” Ball said in an interview. “Sellout crowd every night and they gonna get a championship. Because the speed they play with together as grown men is unmatched. They’re used to wearing people down and just going so fast that you can’t keep up with them.”
Ball said he believed the Lakers would draft LiAngelo to join Lonzo, whom the franchise had selected second overall in 2017, but it didn’t happen. In 2019, Lonzo was traded to New Orleans as part of the deal that netted the Lakers franchise big man Anthony Davis. LiAngelo began training camp in Detroit in December but was waived before the regular season began.
With LaMelo blossoming into one of the league’s top young guards in the first year of his rookie contract — “a lot of us are surprised at how good he really is, to tell you the truth,” one Eastern Conference scout told The Los Angeles Times’ this week — the only feasible landing spot for such a Chino Hills reunion in the short-term would be in Charlotte. LiAngelo is not with an NBA team currently but has continued training. Lonzo has been discussed in potential trades since he and New Orleans did not come to an agreement on a rookie-deal extension in the offseason. The trade deadline is March 25. After this season Lonzo will become a restricted free agent.
Would the Hornets be a destination Lonzo would target? Charlotte’s starting backcourt of Ball and Terry Rozier are on the books to return next season. Both have been major factors in the team’s surprise 20-19 start.
“I’m waiting on, you know, one of these teams to take the chance and say you know what? We’re going to get all three Ball boys,” LaVar said. “And then watch what happens. Watch the show. Because I know what they can do all three together.
“One of them is good, two of them is better but three of them together, they’re at their best. They all got good height, can switch everything and they get rid of the ball quick so it’s going to be 40 to 50 points a quarter with those three out there, very easy.”
With local COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting fans from attending any NBA games in California this season, LaMelo’s return will be welcomed in Staples Center by a handful of team employees — not the standing-room-only crowds that were drawn to games at his high school’s modest gymnasium.
Family members are not currently permitted to attend, either. That means LaVar, who once cut an unmistakable presence courtside at Chino Hills, will be watching elsewhere.
“My boys are performers,” LaVar said. “They’ll play in front of no crowds and stuff but the bigger the crowd, the better they play.”
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