LaMelo Ball

NBL: Sale Of Illawara Hawks To LaMelo Ball, Manager Not Yet Final

10:06pm: Australia’s National Basketball League issued a statement confirming discussions with Ball and Jackson, but claiming that a sale of the Illawarra Hawks hasn’t been finalized.

“At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL,” the league’s statement reads. “The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.”

12:13pm: After playing for Australia’s Illawarra Hawks for most of the 2019/20 season, draft prospect LaMelo Ball – along with manager Jermaine Jackson – has purchased the National Basketball League franchise, per an ESPN report.

“We own the team,” Jackson told ESPN. “It’s a done deal.”

The youngest Ball brother ended up playing in just 12 games for Illawarra, with a foot injury bringing his season to an early end. However, as Jackson explained to ESPN, Ball enjoyed his time in Australia with the Hawks so much that he wanted to get involved when the team faced financial issues.

“Melo loves the Illawarra fans,” Jackson said. “He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home. When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, ‘Let’s own the team.'”

Jackson went on to talk about hiring “the right people” to oversee the franchise with the goal of creating an elite basketball program that may appeal to other top high school prospects who are considering following in Ball’s footsteps by playing overseas rather than in the NCAA.

“When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come,” Jackson said. “They’ll know they will be taken care of. We’re going to put the organization on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for. I’m in touch with several former NBA GMs that want to go there to help out and high-level coaches that won every championship you can imagine.”

While Ball won’t be the first NBA player to own a basketball franchise in an international league, the fact that he’s in position to make such an investment before even entering the league is fascinating. At this point, we don’t have specific details on how bad the Hawks’ financial situation was or what the purchase price was for Ball and Jackson.

Ball, who averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 7.0 APG in the NBL, with multiple triple-doubles, is viewed as a near-lock to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He’s currently the No. 2 overall prospect on ESPN’s big board.

Draft Notes: White, Collins, Choh, Ball, Toppin

Like Arizona State teammate Remy Martin, junior forward Romello White is declaring for the 2020 NBA draft, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, who tweets that White is keeping his options open. In a tweet of his own, White confirmed that he has sought feedback from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

After putting up modest numbers as a sophomore, White had a bounce-back junior year, averaging 10.2 PPG to go along with a team-best 8.8 RPG, and 1.2 BPG in 30 games (28.5 MPG) for the Sun Devils. He’ll have the option of returning for his senior season if he decides to withdraw from the draft pool later in the process.

Here are a few more draft-related notes and updates:

  • South Florida junior guard David Collins is testing the draft waters, reports Rothstein (Twitter link). Collins was the team’s leading scorer in 2019/20, with 13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.8 SPG.
  • Forward Tamenang Choh is declaring for the draft following his junior season at Brown University, a source tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link). Choh posted 13.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 3.3 APG, but struggled to score efficiently, with a shooting line of .392/.292/.655.
  • LaMelo Ball has overtaken Anthony Edwards on Sam Vecenie’s latest big board at The Athletic. Dayton’s Obi Toppin has also moved up in Vecenie’s newest update, coming in at No. 4, behind only Ball, Edwards, and James Wiseman.
  • Over at SI.com, Jeremy Woo still has Edwards at No. 1 overall in his most recent mock draft, which covers both rounds. Woo isn’t as high as Vecenie on either Ball (No. 5) or Toppin (N0.9).

Pistons Notes: Draft, Brown, Casey, TV Workers

If the Pistons win the lottery, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards would be their best hope of landing a potential superstar in this draft, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Edwards’ “power athleticism” gives him a slight edge over LaMelo Ball, another point guard who played in Australia this season. Edwards, who is already 225 pounds at 18 years old, can be elite offensively if he’s willing to put in the work, Vecenie adds. The Pistons currently have a 10.5% chance of landing the top pick, so Vecenie and The Athletic’s James Edwards III run through a variety of draft scenarios and prospects from 1-7.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Second-year guard Bruce Brown will be focused on continuing to develop his jumper and improving his other ball skills during this offseason, Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. Brown has already established himself as a solid and versatile perimeter defender and coach Dwane Casey views him in a secondary ballhandler role going forward. The franchise values Brown as a vital part of the future while reshaping many other parts of its roster, Langlois adds.
  • Casey has been spending extra time viewing film of not only NBA games but also draft prospects, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. The Pistons were one of the teams that went into self-isolation after the suspension of play. “Watching game film, trying to see what we can do differently defensively,” Casey said. “New ideas to experiment with for next year. Also watching a lot of draft film. Very unusual for this time of year.”
  • While the Pistons and other teams are giving assistance to arena workers and staff members during the hiatus, the team’s broadcasting crew is seeking financial help, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reports. Freelancers for Fox Sports Detroit — which also broadcast Red Wings and Tigers games — are not getting paid during the hiatus. FSD was one of the regional sports networks purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group last year and haven’t been offered any assistance from Sinclair. Most FSD workers at Pistons home games, including stage managers, camera operators, audio technicians and editors, are freelancers.

Draft Notes: Logistics, Medicals, Mock Draft, More

Even before the COVID-19 situation, the 2020 NBA draft was viewed as a confusing one, given how many of this year’s top prospects – including LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, and RJ Hampton – had their seasons cut short by injuries or eligibility issues. Before going down with injuries, Ball and Hampton were playing on the other side of the world in Australia’s National Basketball League, limiting scouting opportunities for NBA teams.

Now, given the league’s hiatus and its shrinking list of pre-draft events, decision-makers are expecting to have to do their scouting almost exclusively via film, as Ethan Strauss of The Athletic details. Some executives, such as Warriors GM Bob Myers, are still hoping for the opportunity to meet prospects face-to-face, but are unsure whether that will be possible.

“Are we allowed to talk to them in person? That’s a huge part of hiring anybody, which is what a draft pick is; you’re hiring somebody into your company,” Myers said this week. “We’d like to be able to look at them and talk to them and we’d like to see them up close.”

The draft combine typically provides teams with an opportunity to meet dozens prospects in the span of a few days. However, as Strauss notes, even though this May’s combine hasn’t yet been postponed or canceled, few people expect it to happen. It’s also not clear when exactly the draft, currently scheduled for June 25, will take place if the NBA aims to resume its 2019/20 season in the spring or summer.

Here’s more on an uncertain 2020 draft:

  • Although teams are getting used to the idea of relying on digital scouting and conducting meetings through video apps like FaceTime or Zoom, executives are wondering how prospects will go through medical checks they’d usually undergo at the combine, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. One team staffer conveyed a similar concern to Strauss: “What the league has to do is at least get the medical records. Everything else is optional.”
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com takes his own look at the scheduling and logistical issues surrounding this year’s draft and digs into how the unusual circumstances may affect the decisions being made by potential early entrants.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has published an updated version of his mock draft, with Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija, James Wiseman, and Obi Toppin coming off the board first, in that order.

And-Ones: P. Gasol, Player Options, 2020 Draft

Veteran big man Pau Gasol suggested earlier this month that he hopes to get healthy in time to represent Spain in the 2020 Olympics, and that he hasn’t given up on the possibility of an NBA comeback. Gasol, who will turn 40 in July, recently reiterated that point to Spain’s Agencia Efe, as relayed by Eurohoops.

“I understand that sooner or later, whether this summer, next season or another, my retirement is inevitable,” Gasol said. “I hope that the foot recovers so that it can allow me to play a little more. We will see how much more. Enjoy one last season.”

Gasol’s foot issues limited him to 30 games in 2018/19 and sidelined him altogether in 2019/20 before he was waived by Portland. At this point, a return to the NBA seems unlikely, but it would be great to see Gasol get healthy and get a farewell season in 2020/21.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes an early look at this summer’s player option decisions, projecting which players are locks to opt in or out, and which decisions will end up being a little trickier. Gozlan singles out Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, and DeMar DeRozan as complicated cases, since they won’t match their 2020/21 option salaries if they opt out, but they could earn more total money on new multiyear deals.
  • Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) takes a look at some draft-related storylines to watch over the next month in the NCAA, including the final games of Anthony Edwards‘ college career, Isaac Okoro‘s draft stock, and the logjam of first-round point guard prospects.
  • Speaking of Edwards, the Georgia guard remains atop Sam Vecenie’s 2020 draft big board at The Athletic. LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija, James Wiseman, and Killian Hayes round out Vecenie’s top five.

Knicks To Target Scoring Point Guard In 2020 Draft?

With the Knicks‘ playoff chances for 2019/20 essentially dead, the team has its eye on the 2020 draft class. And according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the Knicks’ scouting staff has been informed that the top priority for the club’s lottery pick is a scoring point guard.

Despite using their 2017 lottery selection on Frank Ntilikina and acquiring former top-10 picks such as Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., the Knicks have been unable to secure a long-term answer at the point guard spot in recent years. It remains to be seen whether New York will find its answer in this year’s draft, but there should be some options, especially if the team remains in position to pick in the top half of the lottery.

Berman singles out LaMelo Ball as one possible target, noting that Leon Rose was expected to be Ball’s agent at CAA before Rose agreed to become the Knicks’ next president of basketball operations. Cole Anthony (UNC), Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State), Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky), and Killian Hayes (France) are other young guards who figure to be on the Knicks’ radar on draft day, says Berman. All those players are projected to come off the board between No. 4 (Ball) and No. 12 (Hayes) in ESPN’s latest mock draft (Insider link).

With the Knicks’ front office in a transition period, it can be tricky to know what to make of reports like these, since it’s unclear whether they reflect the preferences of interim head of basketball operations Scott Perry or incoming head of basketball operations Rose.

However, Berman writes that the Knicks’ aggressive pursuit of D’Angelo Russell at this month’s trade deadline was under Rose’s “consultation,” which suggests the veteran agent has had a voice in the front office even before he finishes tying up loose ends at CAA and officially joins the franchise. Russell, of course, would have perfectly fit the description of a scoring point guard.

According to Berman, the Knicks’ other priority in the draft will be a swingman with three-point range, something that RJ Barrett (.318 3PT%) hasn’t yet shown. Berman notes that New York could use the Clippers’ first-round pick to target that sort of player.

And-Ones: Mock Draft, Maker, G League Union, Bethea Jr.

Georgia guard Anthony Edwards heads to Cleveland in the latest mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Former Memphis center James Wiseman (Golden State), Auburn swingman Isaac Okoro (Atlanta), guard LaMelo Ball (New York) and Israeli swingman Deni Avdija (Charlotte) round out the top five. USC big man Onyeka Okongwu has firmly moved into the top 10 after a couple of big performances against top competition and Givony has him going to Detroit at No. 7.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Makur Maker has been declared eligible for this year’s draft, Evan Daniels of 247Sports reports. The 6’11” Maker is a five-star recruit currently at Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix but he doesn’t plan to play any more games there, Daniels continues. The question about his eligibility stemmed from not receiving his diploma following his senior year of high school. Maker plans to play in the Iverson Classic All-Star game and the Nike Hoop Summit, Daniels adds.
  • NBA players have voted to support the formation of a union for G League players, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The vote was held at the NBPA meeting on Monday. Formal approval at the G League level will have to take place before the union can be formed (Twitter links).
  • Raptors 905 guard Michael Bethea Jr. is the subject of a feature story by The Athletic’s Blake Murphy on the life of a G League player.

LaMelo Ball Leaves Australian Team

Top draft prospect LaMelo Ball has returned stateside after an abridged season with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia, according to a report from Timothy Fernandez of ABC Illawarra (hat tip to NBC Sports).

Ball’s season came to an early end when he suffered a foot injury in December and was subsequently shut down in January. Although he wasn’t going to suit up again for the team, it sounds like the Hawks were caught off guard by the timing of Ball’s departure. According to Fernandez, captain Todd Blanchfield didn’t know about it until he was asked for comment by ABC Illawarra.

“It’s news to me, but [Ball’s camp has] got an agenda they have to take care of,” Blanchfield said. “At the end of the day he’s thinking of the bigger picture and has bigger things in mind. … We were teammates for half the season while he was playing, and we had our ups and downs, but it would have been good to say goodbye.”

Team owner Simon Stratford said he was “really disappointed” that Ball didn’t say goodbye to his teammates or coach, per Fernandez. Still, when the Hawks officially announced Ball’s departure, they wished him the best in his preparations for the draft.

“LaMelo has had a big impact on our club and the league and we thank him for everything he has done for the Hawks and the Illawarra community,” Hawks general manager Mat Campbell said in a statement. “He has a very bright future ahead of him and the Hawks are proud to have played a part in that journey. LaMelo and his team will always be a part of the Hawks family and we wish him the very best ahead of the NBA Draft.”

Ball averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 6.8 APG in the 12 games he played prior to his injury, making himself a contender for the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony currently has Ball ranked atop his big board, though he notes that the guard’s work ethic and level of focus have been called into question. Ball’s abrupt departure from the Hawks could be another factor for NBA teams to consider as they evaluate his draft stock this spring.

And-Ones: 2020 Draft, Powell, Trade Market, Reed

A trio of guards — Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and North Carolina’s Cole Anthony — top The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s latest draft board. Another guard, 18-year-old Killian Hayes, made the biggest move among the top 20 prospects. Hayes, who is playing in Europe, jumped from No. 16 to No. 7.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Nuggets’ Malik Beasley, the Spurs’ Lonnie Walker and the Celtics’ Robert Williams are among five buy-low trade targets for teams seeking to fortify their benches, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.
  • Dwight Powell‘s season-ending Achilles injury was not only a major setback for the Mavericks but also Team Canada, Michael Grange of SportsNet Canada notes. Powell was expected to be a foundation piece for Canada’s Olympic push and his size, smarts, and athleticism will be hard to replace, according to Grange.
  • Veteran center Willie Reed has signed with the G League and returned to the Salt Lake City Stars, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. Reed, 29, was playing in Greece but parted ways with Olympiacos earlier this month.

And-Ones: Mavs, All-Star Draft, China, Ball

The Mavericks announced in a press release that they’ve partnered with Chime Banking for a jersey sponsorship deal. While the exact terms of the agreement aren’t known, Mark Medina of USA Today reports that it’s worth “just under eight figures.”

Dallas previously had a jersey sponsorship deal with the company 5miles, but terminated it last year. Following the end of that partnership, the Mavericks had been the only team without a uniform patch in place, as our tracker shows.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As it did a year ago, the NBA’s All-Star draft will take place on the day of the trade deadline, with the league announcing in a press release that the event will air on TNT at 7:00pm ET on February 6, four hours after the deadline. The top vote-getter in each conference will be an All-Star captain, and those two captains will select their teams from the pools of All-Star starters and reserves.
  • Nets owner Joseph Tsai recently said in an interview with YES Network that the NBA is working to get its relationship with China back on track (hat tip to NetsDaily). “The key thing is we need be broadcast on TV back in China,” Tsai said. “There’s talk NBA ratings are kind of down for various reasons. But we don’t want to see ratings go down globally. We need the NBA games to be back on TV in China.” Tsai faced some criticism in the fall when he wrote a Facebook post essentially defending China’s reaction to Daryl Morey‘s infamous tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic takes a look at LaMelo Ball‘s National Basketball League film as he attempts to assess the youngster’s value, ultimately concluding that he wouldn’t feel comfortable making Ball a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft.