LaMelo Ball

Southeast Notes: Van Gundy, Ball, Battier, Heat Offseason, Wizards

Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel explains makes a case for why Stan Van Gundy , who was fired after a single year on the job with the Pelicans, should be in the running for the Magic’s head coach job. Orlando is one of seven teams this summer with an open head coach position, and though they’ve expressed a desire to cast a wide net in their search, Parry writes that the Magic, given their defensive personnel, could be primed for a reunion with the defensive-minded coach.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Winning Rookie of the Year has only left Hornets‘ guard LaMelo Ball hungrier coming into next season, writes The Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Alexander. The young guard missed 21 games with a fractured wrist in the beginning of the season and struggled at times upon returning, but put together a very encouraging rookie year. “Definitely next season I want to come in with this little boost and pretty much looking forward to next season now,” Ball said. “That’s what we’re all working out for. That’s what we’re all here for. Pretty much just trying to get better every day.”
  • Former Heat forward Shane Battier has left his job as the head of the team’s player development and analytics department, but plans to continue to consult for president Pat Riley and the Heat, reports Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. The decision was entirely up to Battier, who had previously been considered a candidate for promotion should Riley retire. That now that possibility seems a little less likely, Jackson writes.
  • Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald examines whether it makes more sense for the Heat to operate as an above-the-cap team or a cap room team, concluding that operating over the cap likely makes more sense as it would allow the team to re-sign players like Victor Oladipo and Trevor Ariza with Bird Rights, and to decline the options for Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala and bring them back on new, cheaper deals.
  • The Wizards need to be better, and that starts with the front office, writes Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. With the Wizards choosing to not renew Scott Brooks‘ contract, they are also grappling with the fact that turning around the franchise is going to come down to more than a new coaching hire. “The days of one coach being the solution to every single problem a team has are over,” said GM Tommy Sheppard.

Ball, Edwards, Haliburton Head All-Rookie Team

LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Jae’Sean Tate and Saddiq Bey comprised this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced on Thursday in a press release.

Ball, who was named Rookie of the Year on Thursday, led first-year NBA players in assists (6.1 APG) and steals (1.59 SPG) and ranked second in scoring (15.7 PPG) and rebounding (5.9 RPG) for the Hornets. Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Timberwolves, averaged a rookie-high 19.3 PPG.

The Kings’ Haliburton ranked third among rookies in scoring (13.0 PPG) and second in assists (5.3 APG). Bey, the 19th overall pick, made a rookie-high 175 three-pointers for the Pistons. Tate, who went undrafted in 2018 and played in Australia last season, averaged 11.3 PPG and 5.3 PPG for the Rockets.

Ball and Edwards were the only unanimous First Team selections, receiving 99 of 99 potential First Team votes. Haliburton got 98, while Bey had 63 and Tate received 57.

Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley narrowly missed out on the top five, having earned 51 votes for the First Team.

Here are both All-Rookie teams in full, with their voting point totals notes in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

2020/21 All-Rookie First Team:

2020/21 All-Rookie Second Team:

Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (42), Magic guard Cole Anthony (40), and Warriors center James Wiseman (24) were among the players who just missed the cut. Nine other players received votes — you can view the full voting results right here.

LaMelo Ball Named NBA Rookie Of The Year

6:55pm: Ball’s victory has been confirmed by the NBA in a press release. He received 84 of 99 first-place votes, with the others going to Edwards.

Overall, Ball had 465 points, while Edwards was second with 309. Haliburton was third with 114 points. The Pistons’ Saddiq Bey was the only other player to receive votes, garnering three third-place selections.


1:53pm: Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the 2020/21 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, an official announcement from the league is expected soon.

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton were the other finalists for the award. I’d expect Edwards to finish second in the voting, with Haliburton coming in third, but we’ll have to wait for the official breakdown from the NBA.

The third overall pick in the 2020 draft, Ball had a breakthrough rookie year in Charlotte, averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per games in 51 contests (28.8 MPG). There were questions about the 19-year-old’s jump shot entering his first professional season, but Ball put up a respectable shooting line of .436/.352/.758, emerging as the Hornets’ starting point guard despite the presence of veterans Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham.

A fractured right wrist sidelined Ball for over a month in March and April, but he returned to the court down the stretch to help the Hornets clinch a spot in the play-in tournament. The club was bounced in the first game by Indiana, but Ball’s performance in 2020/21 bodes well for the long-term future in Charlotte.

Finalists For Major 2020/21 NBA Awards Announced

During a TNT broadcast ahead of tonight’s Wizards-Pacers play-in matchup, the finalists for six big end-of-season 2020/21 awards were announced. Here is the full list, as voted on by reporters.

NBA Most Valuable Player:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Tom Thibodeau (Knicks)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Some of these current contenders are familiar with the hardware they’re up for again. Curry is a two-time MVP, having won the award previously in 2015 and 2016. Gobert and Green have both previously won Defensive Player of the Year awards — Green in 2017 and Gobert in 2018 and 2019. Thibodeau was voted Coach of the Year a decade ago while with the Bulls.

The winners for the awards will be announced during the 2020/21 NBA playoffs.

Hornets Notes: Ball, Monk, Hayward, Cody Martin

LaMelo Ball exceeded expectations in his first season with the Hornets, but coach James Borrego still sees room for improvement, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors and Borrego has called him the “engine” of Charlotte’s offense, but his first season was also marked by excessive turnovers and missed assignments on defense.

Bonnell notes that Ball didn’t have a full summer or a traditional training camp to adjust to the NBA. He still averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 51 games and may have been a runaway choice for the league’s top rookie if not for a broken wrist he suffered in March.

“This is all new and fresh for him,” Borrego said. “I thought he was making some significant steps before the injury. I thought he showed tremendous growth. Obviously, that was disrupted with the injury. The goal now — one of my top priorities this summer — is to really work with this kid … work on offense and defense. We’ve got to take some major steps, and it starts with his body, and then working through offense and defense.”

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Malik Monk‘s future with the team is uncertain as he heads toward free agency this summer, Bonnell states in the same story. The fourth-year guard is coming off his best scoring season, averaging 11.7 points per game, but he might not have a set role in a crowded Hornets backcourt. “If they want me here, I’d love to be here,” Monk said Wednesday in a session with the media, “but I want to feel wanted.” 
  • A sprained right foot sidelined Gordon Hayward for the final 25 games, but he doesn’t expect to need offseason surgery, Bonnell adds. Hayward told reporters that when the injury occurred in early April, he was given a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks. This Friday represents the seven-week mark.
  • Cody Martin missed Tuesday’s play-in game with a sprained ankle and said he probably won’t be able to do any on-court work until next week, Bonnell tweets. That mean’s it’s unlikely that Martin would have been available for a first-round playoff series if the Hornets had advanced.

Eastern Notes: Embiid, Ball, Claxton, Nets

If Sixers center Joel Embiid were to win the 2020/21 MVP award, it’d provide a sense of achievement for the team as a whole, head coach Doc Rivers opined, as relayed by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I think any individual award, no one does anything by themselves, right?” Rivers said. “So I think it would be a feel-good thing for the entire locker room. You know, obviously for Joel, because it is a hell of an accomplishment.”

Embiid is a strong candidate for the award, averaging a career-high 29.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 49 games this season. In addition to Embiid’s impressive averages, Philadelphia holds the best record in the Eastern Conference at 47-21. However, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who has put up huge numbers and has played over 800 more minutes than Embiid, is widely considered to be the MVP frontrunner.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes that Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has been grabbing at his wrist in recent games, and explores whether it should be a concern for the team. Ball recently missed 21 games after fracturing the same wrist, returning to action on May 1.
  • Nets center Nicolas Claxton tested positive for COVID-19 but wasn’t hit hard by the virus, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Claxton entered the league’s health and safety protocols on April 19. “I was testing positive for COVID,” Claxton said of his recent absence. “But I didn’t have any symptoms. I was just stuck in Miami, just there quarantining for about 10 days so I wasn’t really able to do much. I did a few quarantine workouts, but it’s just tough having to sit like that and then coming out here having to play. It’s just another obstacle. It’s nothing that I can’t conquer. This last week, it’s been a challenge, but it hasn’t been too tough … I’m just trying to get my rhythm back, get my wind back right before the playoffs so we’ll be able to make that push.”
  • Speaking of the Nets, the team will be focused on its health and continuity as the playoffs near, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has dealt with significant injuries throughout the season, failing to sport a consistent starting lineup and effectively build chemistry. The team still has one of the most talented rosters in history, particularly on offense, making its future playoff journey intriguing.

LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk To Return Saturday

4:26pm: Ball and Monk have both been cleared to play tonight, with Ball returning to the starting lineup, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Coach James Borrego plans to have them both play four to five minutes at a time, but didn’t offer an estimate of how much total court time either player will see.


12:20pm: Monk intends to return for Saturday’s game, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who notes (via Twitter) that Ball will test his wrist before the game before making a final determination on his availability.


11:38am: Ball is expected to return to action on Saturday against the Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.


9:06am: The Hornets have upgraded both LaMelo Ball (right wrist fracture) and Malik Monk (right ankle sprain) from out to questionable for Saturday’s tilt against the Pistons, paving the way for both players to return.

Ball, 19, suffered a fractured wrist in late March, an injury that was believed to be season-ending. However, the then-projected Rookie of the Year has progressed well in his recovery from wrist surgery and may end up missing just over a month.

Before the injury, the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft averaged 15.9 PPG, 6.1 APG and 5.9 RPG while shooting 45.1% from the field in 41 games (21 starts).

As for Monk, he suffered his sprained ankle in early April and was initially projected to miss at least two weeks. The injury lingered and Monk will also end up missing a month, should he return tonight or in any of the Hornets’ upcoming games.

Monk, 23, averaged 13.2 PPG for Charlotte in 32 contests off the bench before his injury.

The Hornets were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the time of Ball’s injury but the team has since slipped down to eighth with a 30-32 record.

Injury Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Warren, DSJ, Bagley

The Hornets will see if LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are ready for game action during their off days Thursday and Friday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball had surgery March 23 on his fractured right wrist, while Monk has been sidelined since April 1 with a sprained ankle. Both players will take part in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages over the next two days.

The news isn’t as encouraging for Gordon Hayward, Bonnell adds. He’s still wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot and there’s no timetable for him to start working out. “Gordon is not there yet,” coach James Borrego said.

Here are some more injury-related notes and updates:

  • The Hawks are getting a second opinion on Kevin Huerter‘s sprained left shoulder, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter underwent an MRI this week, but the results haven’t been announced.
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, began jogging today on a treadmill, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Coach Nate Bjorkgren called it “a big step” for the 27-year-old forward.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been able to practice lately and the Pistons don’t have a timeline for him to return from left knee soreness, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s why it’s so important that Killian (Hayes) came back,” said coach Dwane Casey. “… It’s unfortunate that he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with.”
  • Marvin Bagley III could return soon from his hand injury, Kings coach Luke Walton tells James Ham of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Bagley has participated in some 3-on-3 games and may be ready to start playing in the next few days.

And-Ones: Referees, Play-In Tourney, Iverson Classic

While the NBA and its players’ union have provided weekly updates on the number of positive COVID-19 tests among players, we haven’t heard much about how the league’s referees – who travel commercially – have been affected by the coronavirus this season. Baxter Holmes of ESPN fills in some blanks, reporting that 10 of the NBA’s referees are currently sidelined, primarily due to COVID-related issues, and adding that 24 refs have missed at least one game this season due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

A league spokesperson tells Holmes that most of the current absences are related to contact tracing and that the NBA expects all 10 affected referees to be available for the start of the postseason next month.

In the interim, however, the league has had to “call up” six referees from the G League. According to Holmes, a number of teams and executives around the NBA have complained about the performance of those refs, prompting NBA VP of referee development and training Monty McCutchen to defend their performances.

“These were our top six G League officials who would have been getting some NBA games anyway this year. They had to be pressed into some more service, but they are knocking on the door to being staff members,” McCutchen told ESPN. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s just call any random G League (official) because they live in Portland and we’ll pull them up that night.’ They had already reached levels of excellence that meant they were ready for this.”

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

  • NBA executives believe that flattening the lottery odds and introducing the play-in tournament has helped reduce league-wide tanking among non-playoff teams, according to Howard Beck of SI.com, who says that league sources think the play-in tournament will be adopted on a permanent basis beyond this season.
  • The Iverson Classic All-American Game, which will take place on May 8 in Memphis, has received NBA approval as a certified event, meaning team scouts can attend and evaluate prospects, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Top 2022 prospects such as Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren headline the list of participants.
  • A little over five months after the 2020 draft took place, Sam Vecenie, John Hollinger, of James L. Edwards III of The Athletic completed a re-draft of the ’20 class. Among the big risers in The Athletic’s re-draft are LaMelo Ball (No. 3 to No. 1), Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12 to No. 5), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16 to No. 7), Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17 to No. 7), and Jaden McDaniels (No. 28 to No. 10).

Injury Notes: Lillard, Durant, Fox, Hornets

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who has missed the team’s last three games due to right hamstring tendiopathy, intends to return on Wednesday night vs. Denver, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The Trail Blazers will welcome Lillard’s return — after squeaking out a one-point win in San Antonio, the club lost its next two games without him. Portland remains in the No. 6 seed in the West, but now has just a 1.5-game cushion over the seventh-place Mavs.

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

  • A pair of sources confirmed to Brian Lewis of The New York Post that Kevin Durant‘s thigh injury is considered minor. Durant remains with the Nets on their current road trip rather than having returned to Brooklyn, and head coach Steve Nash said the star forward is “day-to-day.” The latest update from the team on James Harden wasn’t quite so positive, as we relayed last night.
  • Kings head coach Luke Walton said after Tuesday’s game that point guard De’Aaron Fox tweaked his ankle on Sunday, per Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento (Twitter link). It doesn’t appear the injury will sideline Fox for now, but it explains why he was limited to 28 minutes in the club’s loss last night — those 28 minutes were the fewest he has played in a game since January 15.
  • There’s still no set timetable for LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk, or Gordon Hayward to return to the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Although Monk’s return isn’t imminent, he’s believed to be closer than Hayward, says Bonnell. As for Ball, while a Monday report suggested he could be back as soon as early next week, head coach James Borrego wouldn’t confirm that, but he did say it seems that Ball wouldn’t be at risk of worsening his wrist injury if he returns this season, which is good news for Charlotte.