LaMelo Ball

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

And-Ones: Vaccines, Ball, Trade Candidates, Defenders, All-Star Voting

In an effort to alleviate players’ – and some coaches’ – fears and skepticism about receiving COVID-19 vaccines, the NBA is arranging mandatory meetings over the next two weeks between its top medical expert and all 30 teams, Sam Amick, Joe Vardon and David Aldridge of The Athletic report. Teams felt there was a need to provide information and insight on this issue to its players.

The NBA wants everyone associated with the game — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, not only for safety reasons but also as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • LaMelo Ball ranks as the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. The Hornets guard ranks first in assists and steals, second in rebounding and third in scoring among all rookies despite coming off the bench in all but two games. Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton sits in second place for Wasserman, who ranks the rookies from 10-1.
  • With Wizards guard Bradley Beal apparently off the market, there won’t be another blockbuster trade this season to rival the James Harden deal, Tim Bontemps of ESPN opines. Some of the players who could be moved by March’s trade deadline are Lonzo BallJ.J. Redick, P.J. Tucker, George Hill, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, though Hill and Gordon are currently injured.
  • Rudy Gobert‘s contract with the Jazz is a rare case in which a defensive stalwart is compensated like a elite scorer, Aldridge notes in a separate Athletic story. Aldridge takes a closer look at why top defenders are generally not as valued as scorers.
  • Kevin Durant has received the most All-Star votes in the early returns, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Beal is the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards. LeBron James has the most votes among Western Conference forwards and Stephen Curry leads all Western Conference guards by a wide margin.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Heat, Ball, Isaac

The Heat are looking to “right the ship” and improve on bad habits created during the absence of Jimmy Butler and others this month, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes.

Butler, who returned on Saturday after missing ten straight games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, poured in 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the contest. It was Miami’s first victory in over a week, snapping a five-game losing streak.

“It’s a start,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just have to continue to forge ahead. Our spirit has been lifted. It feels different than it did two weeks ago.”

Miami has battled COVID-19 and a series of injuries thus far, opening the 2020/21 season with a 7-12 record. The team has upcoming games scheduled against the Hornets on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday and Friday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Heat and Butler mutually missed each other during his absence, David Wilson writes for The Miami Herald. Butler is coming off a season that saw him average 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and six assists per game, leading Miami to its first Finals appearance since 2014.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines whether Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball is ready to make his first NBA start. Ball scored a career-high 27 points in the team’s win over Milwaukee on Saturday, also adding five rebounds, nine assists and four steals on 8-of-10 shooting.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is embracing the grind of his rehab, working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last August, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “I like the work. I like getting in and grinding every day,” Isaac said. “I think most people would think that that’s the hardest part but I take it like I’m out there playing on the court when I’m doing my rehab. This is my game right now. But the hardest part is definitely just being on the sideline and watching those guys fighting and just wishing I was out there with them.

Southeast Notes: Ball, Capela, Pierce, Magic

LaMelo Ball has made several highlight passes during his first NBA season, but turnovers are cutting into his playing time, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The Hornets guard has seen his minutes scaled back in the last two games, and coach James Borrego says ball security is the reason.

“If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me,” Borrego said of Ball’s performance in Friday’s loss to the Bulls. “If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively.”

The third player picked in last year’s draft, Ball has experienced an uneven start to his NBA career. He became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double, but he’s shooting just 40.4% from the floor though his first 15 games. Despite the frustrations, his coach plans to be patient.

“He had a stretch where he played extremely well. We need to find that again,” Borrego said. “He’s got to get better, bottom line. He’s engaged, he wants to get better. He’s capable of handling it.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Clint Capela has transformed the Hawks‘ defense, notes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. An injury prevented Capela from playing after he was acquired at last year’s trade deadline, but his presence in the middle has helped Atlanta improve from 27th to eighth in the league in defensive efficiency. He posted his first triple-double Friday night, which included 10 blocked shots. “I just feel like last year was not really defense,” Capela said. “It was just going and scoring. I just feel now that you have a guy under the rim to challenge every shot or change shots from the opposite team, it just changes everything. It makes a difference.”
  • The condensed schedule is limiting practice time for all NBA teams and it’s especially difficult for the Hawks, who have nine new players on their roster, observes Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta hasn’t practiced since January 13, and that happened only because a game against the Suns was postponed. “We’re all adjusting,” coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I’ve never done this in the NBA, fly to a city and go straight to the gym, and so it does give us some getting used to the arena floor because we won’t have a shootaround (the next day), so it is a different norm and we use it as our way to break the ice a little bit, get some rhythm, and then we have a ton of rest heading into tomorrow’s game.”
  • Salary cap concerns will provide incentive for the Magic to trade Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon before this year’s deadline, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Gallinari, Ball, Heat, Oladipo

The NBA still doesn’t know how the Wizards‘ COVID-19 outbreak started, with six players testing positive and four games recently being postponed, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports writes.

The outbreak, which is considered to be the worst of the season to date, has left the Wizards unable to produce the league-required eight players needed to play. As Hughes notes, the team is still unsure of how it started despite an extensive contract tracing process.

“We have players that are out on the floor unmasked during the games,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “That’s an obvious thing. They have exposure to each other. Sometimes on the bench, players will pull their masks down and talk to each other, things like that. The contact tracing is very necessary, but it’s also difficult because it could have been anywhere at any time. The fact it hasn’t jumped the wall and it hasn’t extended past players kind of makes you, at least common sense-wise, would make you believe it’s happening in contact out on the court.”

The Wizards’ games against the Cavaliers on Sunday and Monday have also been postponed because of the virus.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks are listing Danilo Gallinari as doubtful to play in Monday’s game against the Wolves, with the veteran forward last seeing action on Dec. 30 due to a right ankle sprain. Gallinari has progressed to half-court individual activities and is now being re-introduced to contact activity, the team announced (Twitter link).
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines how much the Hornets truly trust LaMelo Ball and what the team is currently missing. Ball, drafted third overall by the team in the fall, is currently averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game off the bench.
  • Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel explores whether the Rockets could still entice the Heat with a potential trade, only this time with Victor Oladipo. Oladipo and Miami have long been linked to one another, with the 28-year-old set to enter unrestricted free agency at season’s end.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Bryant, Ball, Bamba

The Wizards didn’t find out that Bradley Beal wouldn’t be able to play Saturday night until an hour before game time, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. Beal has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols because of contact tracing, which normally sidelines a player for seven days, assuming he continues to test negative for COVID-19. He landed there because of a post-game conversation Friday night with Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

A source tells Katz the league is still reviewing the Beal situation and hasn’t decided how long he will have to sit out. Washington has upcoming games that could be affected on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“The NBA is really serious about this thing,” Rui Hachimura said. “We gotta (wear) masks on the bench and stuff, those kinds of stuff, and we gotta follow the rules. And we have to be ready. Any time — who knows? — someone (could) get injured or someone (could) get (ineligible). Brad just got called, and he can’t play right before the game. So, someone’s gotta step up and be ready every night.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards may have suffered a significant loss Saturday night when starting center Thomas Bryant had to leave the game after hurting his left knee in the first quarter, Katz adds in the same story. An MRI will be conducted today to determine the extent of the damage, and a source tells Katz there’s hope it’s an injury to the MCL rather than the ACL. “T.B. is a huge part of what we do on both ends of the floor, and he’s been playing big for us,” Robin Lopez said. “… I hope everything turns out OK. I’m not sure what the status is right now, but we love having him on the floor. I love playing with him. I hope he’s OK.”
  • Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball entered the NBA record book Saturday, becoming the youngest player ever to post a triple-double. Sam Amick of The Athletic expects Ball to eventually replace Devonte’ Graham as the starting point guard, but admits it’s a difficult decision for coach James Borrego because Gordon Hayward handles so much of the playmaking for the first unit.
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba is still playing catchup after the effects of a summer coronavirus case extended into this season, writes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Bamba wasn’t cleared for contact work until December 16, and limited practice opportunities because of the condensed schedule have slowed his attempt to get back into game condition.

Southeast Notes: Young/Collins, Westbrook, Heat, LaMelo

After Hawks power forward John Collins reportedly voiced his frustration with the way the club has been running its offense through All-Star point guard Trae Young, Young addressed their issues with a measured response.

“I know me and John have set the bar high for ourselves, but we’re still 22 and 23 years old,” Young said of their early Hawks tenure, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “There’s a lot we can get better at. There’s going to be times where we are going to talk and there’s going to be times when teammates are going to talk about what we see.”

The revamped Hawks are currently 4-4, good for the No. 9 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Fred Katz of The Athletic details the Wizards‘ “load management” plan for new starting point guard Russell Westbrook. Washington GM Tommy Sheppard tells Katz that the club’s process for resting Westbrook will be fluid going forward. “We’ve adhered to a schedule thus far and a lot of it just kinda evolves on how he’s feeling, how he’s responding to the rigors of the season,” Sheppard said. “It’s way too early right now to say, ‘OK, well this is how it’s going to be the entire year.’”
  • The Sioux Falls Sky Force, the G League affiliate of the Heat, will not be partaking in the 2020/21 G League “bubble” this season. Miami GM Andy Elisburg addressed the decision, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “For us, just for the quick turnaround, it just became a lot on everyone’s plate, and dealing with the fact that it’s an unusual season, managing the COVID,” Elisburg said. “There’s a lot of different things that were on the plate. That’s where we made the decision.”
  • Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has had to grow up quickly on the hardwood for Charlotte, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Ball’s size and on-court versatility has allowed the Hornets to experiment with intriguing lineups. “I definitely knew I had to rebound,” the 6’7″ Ball said of being played in an ultra-small lineup alongside Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham for the team’s last two contests.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Hornets, Borrego, Avdija

Now that Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer going to be a 2021 free agent candidate for the Heat, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if Miami might pivot to eventually adding Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who holds a $37.26MM player option for the 2022/23 season. After swapping out point guard John Wall for All-Star Russell Westbrook in the offseason, the Wizards are off to a 1-5 start.

The 6’3″ Beal, 27, is a two-time All-Star and could be a great fit on the Heat as both a secondary ball-handler and an off-ball cutter. He is currently averaging a career-best 31.2 PPG on 47.8% shooting from the field and 87.7% shooting from the charity stripe. Though his three-point shooting through the first six games of the season is a low 27.3%, he is a career 37.9% three-point shooter, averaging 6.0 triples per contest over the course of his career.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Hornets have had to adjust their rotation given the absence of starting center Cody Zeller, and their transition to a faster small-ball lineup has proven effective thus far, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
  • In a separate piece, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wonders how long Hornets head coach James Borrego will ride his current starting lineup. Starting point guard Devonte’ Graham is struggling mighty with his offense, shooting 25% from the floor, while rookie draft selection LaMelo Ball could be a candidate for a promotion.
  • Wizards rookie wing Deni Avdija showcased his offensive skill set in his best game of the young season, a 130-109 Washington victory over the Timberwolves on Friday, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Avdija, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft, scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor, and recorded seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Hughes contends that it Avdija appears to have made progress in his ability to read the floor. “I love playmaking,” Avidja said. “I like making my teammates involved. I’m looking for them at every opportunity.”

Southeast Notes: Heat Free Agency, LaMelo, Collins, Avdija

With Giannis Antetokounmpo now signed to the Bucks on a record $228MM five-year extension, the Heat could pivot their 2021 free agency focus to alternative options, such as star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Blake Griffin, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Leonard can opt out of the contract he signed with the Clippers in the summer of 2019, and has sounded non-committal to L.A. beyond this season in recent interviews, in Winderman’s view. Meanwhile, though injuries limited Griffin to just 20 games last season, the 6’9″ power forward made the All-Star team for the Pistons in 2019.

The 2020 Eastern Conference champions should have significant cap space next summer to add a high-level player, though they will need to address the restricted free agency of sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Though rookie Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball has struggled through some growing pains in this early season, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer suggests that the No. 3 overall pick should see more playing time from coach James Borrego. Ball is averaging just 15.5 minutes so far. “It’s tough. There are a number of guys that are capable of handling minutes,” Borrego said. “LaMelo’s got to do his part. It’s my job to do what’s best for this club.
  • Hawks power forward John Collins may have rejected an extension offer in excess of $90MM prior to the season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast. The high-scoring big man will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021, and could command a similar number – or a higher one – on the open market.
  • Rookie Wizards swingman Deni Avdija is getting the first-year treatment from league referees, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Head coach Scott Brooks contends that Avdija is receiving quick whistles from league officials. Early foul trouble limited Avdija to just 15 minutes of action in a loss to the Magic yesterday. “It’s just part of the rookie initiation,” Brooks commented. “I [reviewed the plays] at halftime… I didn’t think two of them were fouls.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, LaMelo, Magic, Avdija

John Hollinger of the Athletic reviewed the 2020 offseason for the Heat and previewed the 2020/21 season for the club, which opened tonight against the Magic in Orlando. Hollinger notes that the team’s 2020 offseason seemed to prioritize future assets over building for the immediate present, despite the fact that Miami made the Finals this season.

The Heat will be able to carve out about $30MM in available cap room for the 2021 offseason, Hollinger projects. Hollinger also expects the team to use its roster, loaded with expiring contracts and intriguing players on cheap contracts, to improve ahead of the playoffs.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have long been waiting to add a new young player capable of generating the kind of buzz a high-upside prospect at the level of rookie point guard LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, according to Andrew Carter of The Charlotte Observer. Hornets head coach James Borrego was skeptical that Ball, the youngest son in a famous family, could enthusiastically buy in to the team concept he was hoping to build before a workout convinced him otherwise. “Just a genuine spirit, an authentic spirit,” Borrego said. “He would ask as many questions as we would ask.”
  • The Magic are hoping to take the next step in their evolution as a playoff club with the chemistry developed through years of continuity, despite the absence of recently-extended forward Jonathan Isaac, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.
  • The Wizards were apparently so set on drafting rookie forward Deni Avdija that they at one point almost made a deal with the Bulls to move up to the No. 4 pick, but determined the cost was too high, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards did not anticipate that Avdija would last long enough to be available at No. 9.