Lonzo Ball

Pelicans Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Ball, Hart

OCTOBER 25: The Pelicans officially exercised their 2020/21 options on Ball and Hart on Friday morning, a source tells Lopez (Twitter link).

OCTOBER 22: The Pelicans are expected to exercise their team options for the 2020/21 season on Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. The moves will likely become official soon, Lopez adds.

Ball, who will turn 22 on Sunday, was one of the key pieces in the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles this summer. In two seasons with the Lakers, Ball averaged 10.0 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 6.2 RPG, but shot poorly (.380/.315/.437) and battled injuries, appearing in just 99 games.

He’ll get a chance at a fresh start in New Orleans this season, and the Pelicans are prepared to lock in his $11,003,782 cap hit for 2020/21. The move will make Ball eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason. He’ll reach restricted free agency in 2021 if he doesn’t sign a new deal next year.

Hart also arrived in New Orleans as a result of the Davis trade. Like Ball, he was a first-round pick in 2017 and is entering his third season. He saw his shooting numbers dip to .407./.336/.688 last season after posting a .469/.396/.702 line as a rookie, but will be counted on to help the Pelicans space the floor. His fourth-year option for 2020/21 is worth $3,491,159.

We’re tracking all of this year’s rookie scale option decisions for ’20/21 right here.

Southwest Notes: Ball, Powell, Van Exel, Guduric

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball is happy to get a fresh start in New Orleans, leaving his up-and-down history with Los Angeles in the rear view mirror, he explained in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Ball, 21, was traded to New Orleans along with Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks in exchange for All-Star forward Anthony Davis this past June.

“It was only a matter of time before a trade happened,” Ball said. “I pretty much knew a trade would happen. Any time you have a player like Anthony Davis available, I knew it was going to be my time. I was looking forward to it and I was excited for a new start. Getting out of L.A. for the first time in my life. I’m happy about it.

“It was just time for a change. I got hurt both years and didn’t do what I wanted to do. I was blessed to stay home and play in front of everybody, but it wasn’t working over there.”

New Orleans sports an impressive young nucleus of Ball, Ingram, Hart, Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and others entering the 2019/20 season. The team also managed to add veteran players such as J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors during the offseason.

“Our core could be even better here,” Ball said. “B.I., J. Hart were already part of the young core with me in L.A., and now we have Zion, Nickeil (Alexander-Walker), Jaxson (Hayes), and other guys that want to work and get better. The sky’s the limit.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Dwight Powell‘s absence from the Mavericks is preventing the team from getting a look at him alongside Kristaps Porzingis, writes Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. Powell, who suffered a left hamstring strain on the fifth day of training camp, is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. “There are no excuses,” head coach Rick Carlisle said after the team’s loss against Milwaukee on Friday. The Bucks finished the game shooting 50% from the field. “We would be doing better, certainly, if Powell was out there, but that isn’t how this game works. You have to concentrate on the guys that you have available.”
  • The Mavericks have brought back Nick Van Exel to the organization as a pro personnel scout, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Van Exel holds coaching experience with the Texas Legends, G League affiliate of the Mavericks, from 2014-16, also suiting up for Dallas as a player during the 2002/03 season.
  • David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal examines how a difficult childhood helped shape Grizzlies wing Marko Guduric, who signed a multiyear contract with the team back in July. “Innocent people died because of politics and whatever,” Guduric, who lived in Yugoslavia, explained. “That was my childhood. It was a difficult time, but I survived it.”

And-Ones: India, Johnson, Robinson, Ball

Commissioner Adam Silver would like to start a professional basketball league in India, perhaps in the next five years, Marc Spears of ESPN reports. India would have to build state-of-the-art arenas to make that happen. The NBA had to make numerous additions — including seats, big video screens and lights — to stage a preseason game there between the Kings and Pacers on Friday.

“I think it’s inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. … We do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games,” Silver said.

There’s growing interest in the league in India and its youngsters are harboring NBA dreams, Reid Forgrave of the New York Times reports.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Joe Johnson is fighting for a roster spot with the Pistons and the veteran forward hopes other players can use the BIG3 as a springboard to relaunch their careers, Eric Woodyard of ESPN writes. “That was another reason why I thought it was very important for me to take this opportunity, because those guys in the BIG3, a lot of them anyway, have hopes to at some point to be able to get back in the league,” said Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed contract with Detroit. “So I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s possible just to get to this point.” Johnson was the BIG3 MVP this year.
  • Former NBA forward Thomas Robinson has drawn major interest from two Chinese teams, Zhejiang Guangsha and Liaoning, according to a report from Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The 2012 lottery pick last played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he saw action in 48 games with the Lakers.
  • Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster has countersued Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and his father, LaVar Ball, for alleged fraudulent concealment and breach of contract, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Foster alleges that LaVar Ball embezzled more than $2.6MM from Big Baller Brand and other companies associated with the family to fund an extravagant lifestyle. The Balls sued Foster in April for more than $2MM for alleged embezzlement.

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Ball, Redick, G League

Former Lakers Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, whose 2018/19 seasons ended early due to health issues, have been full participants in the Pelicans‘ voluntary offseason workouts in New Orleans, a source tells Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com.

Ingram was shut down in March due to a blood clot, while Ball hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since January as a result of an ankle injury. The fact that both players are participating in workouts without restrictions is great news for the Pelicans, who acquired the duo – plus Josh Hart and a handful of draft picks – in the summer’s blockbuster Anthony Davis trade.

Ingram is technically eligible to sign a rookie scale extension up until October 21, the day before the regular season begins. However, the Pelicans are unlikely to make a long-term commitment to him before he appears in a single regular season game for the club. In the 2020 offseason, after New Orleans’ decision-makers have had a full year to evaluate the duo, Ingram will be a restricted free agent and Ball will be eligible for an extension of his own.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Appearing on ESPN’s Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe this week, new Pelicans sharpshooter J.J. Redick cited a desire to play with Jrue Holiday as one reason why he signed with New Orleans, despite the fact that he didn’t have a pre-existing relationship with Holiday and hadn’t played with him in the past. Redick also said that he hopes to play a lot for the Pelicans this season, but doesn’t care whether he starts or comes off the bench.
  • The Erie BayHawks – New Orleans’ new G League affiliate – confirmed this week in a press release that Marc Chasanoff will be the team’s general manager. The BayHawks also announced several other members of their basketball operations staff, including Billy Campbell as assistant GM.
  • After helping to build up the Long Island Nets during his time in Brooklyn, new Pelicans assistant GM Trajan Langdon will look to do the same with New Orleans’ new G League team. William Guillory of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the first steps Langdon is taking toward that goal this year.
  • We passed along a few more notes on the Pelicans on Tuesday, including a report on the team applying for a disabled player exception.

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Ball, Holiday, J. Johnson

Zion Williamson appeared to be fully healed from a bruised knee during a promotional appearance today in Harlem, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The first pick in this year’s draft performed two acrobatic dunks during the 15-minute session, delighting the crowd and a few fortunate youngsters who will appear alongside him in an ad for Air Jordans.

Williamson has been out of the spotlight since concerns about his knee ended his Summer League stint after one half. However, the Pelicans called it minor at the time, and Bondy said he looked to be 100% today as he soared to the hoop.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • During his appearance this week on teammate Josh Hart‘s LightHarted Podcast, Lonzo Ball said he is looking forward to teaming with Jrue Holiday in the Pelicans’ backcourt (hat tip to Christian Rivas of Lonzo Wire). Ball and Holiday both finished in the top 10 in Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating last season, and both were among the top five in 2017/18. “Jrue is one of the most underrated players, in my opinion; I can’t wait to play with him on both sides of the court,” Ball said. “That’s going to be a lot of fun.”
  • Although the Pelicans could use another veteran presence, it’s unlikely that they’ll be the team to sign Joe Johnson, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans already has 18 players under contract, including both two-way slots, plus reported deals with Jalen AdamsJavon Bess and Aubrey Dawkins. The team may get a Disabled Player Exception in the wake on an injury to Darius Miller, but Guillory expects his playing time to go to somebody already on the roster, such as Kenrich Williams or Nicolo Melli.
  • The Pelicans told Williamson and fellow rookie big man Jaxson Hayes to be careful about bulking up over the offseason, Guillory adds in the same piece. The organization believes both players, who are still only 19, may grow a few more inches and they don’t want extra weight to make them more susceptible to injuries in the future.

L.A. Notes: Howard, Davis, Hart, Clippers

Around the time that the Lakers agreed to sign Dwight Howard, reports surfaced suggesting the veteran center had shown awareness of having hit “rock bottom” and had been humbled by the experience. Speaking this week to reporters on an introductory conference call, Howard clarified that his “rock-bottom” moment was more about his life off the court than on it.

“It didn’t have anything to do with basketball,” Howard said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It was just stuff going [on] in my personal life. Mentally, physically and spiritually. It had nothing to do with me as a basketball player or anything like that. It was just personal things that I had to deal with which made me stronger.”

According to McMenamin, Howard was more reluctant than usual on the call with the reporters to say anything that might cause “eyebrows to raise,” expressing a desire to let his actions speak loud than his words.

“I’ve always said a lot of words, but I’d just rather show you guys,” Howard said.

As we wait to see what the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has left in the tank, let’s round up a few more notes out of Los Angeles…

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Murray, Westbrook, Hartenstein

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma expects big things from three ex-teammates who were shipped to the Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, both former No. 2 picks, were sent to New Orleans along with Josh Hart in the deal to get another star to pair with LeBron James. Kuzma thinks the freedom of a new environment should benefit all three players.

“They were excited,” Kuzma said. “It’s a little bit less pressure. They didn’t (actually) say that. But obviously being in L.A., there’s more pressure. They can be themselves now. They can go to New Orleans and develop into the superstars they were supposed to be.”

There had been rumors for months that the Lakers were willing to part with young talent, including Kuzma, to acquire Davis. Kuzma said management told the players they weren’t eager to give up so much of their young core, but everyone understands that Davis is a rare talent.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Injured Spurs guard Dejounte Murray tweeted today that he has received medical clearance to continue his summer workouts. It’s the latest encouraging sign for Murray as he tries to work his way back from a torn right ACL he suffered during a preseason game last October. Murray was coming off a promising 2017/18 campaign in which he earned second-team All-Defense honors while posting an 8.1/5.7/2.9 line in 81 games. He is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
  • As part of his trade from the Thunder to the Rockets, Russell Westbrook agreed to alter his contract, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The changes will make his deal “more team-friendly and less front-loaded,” sources tell Stein.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein and Michael Frazier are trying to seize opportunities with the Rockets through extensive offseason workouts that are heavy on 3-point shooting, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Both players will come to camp next month without fully guaranteed deals. Hartenstein has a 50% guarantee on his $1,416,852 contract for this season, while Frazier has the same salary with no guarantee.

Pelicans Notes: Melli, Ball, Ingram, Redick, Miller

The Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was able to land Euro star Nicolo Melli by selling him on the team’s system and through a connection with Melli’s agent, Griffin told Jeff Duncan of The Athletic in a Q&A session. Melli joined New Orleans on a two-year, $8MM contract.

“It’s not like anybody discovered Melli. Everybody knew Melli. What was interesting is we were able to create a situation that attracted Melli. He had other opportunities to come to the NBA. He’s a player that, because he’s an elite defensive rebounder and floor spacer — I think he’s the leading rebounder in Europe since 2015 and he shoots 42 percent from 3 — that type of player is attractive to the NBA. What I think was significant for us was our situation spoke to him to because he saw his fit within Alvin Gentry’s system, and he’s represented by Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management and Jeff Schwartz, whom I was really close to.”

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Griffin received trade inquiries regarding the three rotation players he received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis blockbuster but didn’t get close to moving Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Brandon Ingram, Griffin indicated in the same story. “There was interest but nothing that really spoke to us to any degree. … We felt really fortunate that we were able to land the players we did, and it became really evident that we were fortunate because of the interest in them that was shown by several other teams basically immediately after the deal was announced. It was fascinating to go through the experience, but we didn’t acquire them to move them, so nothing was even close.”
  • Pelicans guard J.J. Redick will not participate in Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Unlike some players on the original 20-man roster who pulled out to concentrate on the next NBA season, Redick declined to be added to the roster due to family reasons as he transitions to a new city. Redick joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $26.5MM contract.
  • Forward Darius Miller‘s contract has an early July trigger date next summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Miller will make $7.25MM in guaranteed money next season and is due $7MM in 2020/21 in the non-guaranteed portion of his contract. Miller was officially signed over the weekend.

Pelicans Notes: Hart, Ball, Ingram, Melli

Josh Hart spoke with EVP of basketball operations David Griffin shortly after the Anthony Davis, pleading with the executive not to trade him, as he wanted to play for the Pelicans. During a press conference today that introduced Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, Griffin said that it “meant a lot” to the team to have players who were “equally committed” to the franchise.

“We’re deep with selfless winners,” Griffin said (via Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register). “We’re deep with selfless high-character guys who wanna play any role they need to.”

Rival teams have called the Pelicans about all three former Lakers, according to Griffin, but the franchise has turned down inquiries for each player. The front office feels the trio can be part of the team’s future.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Ball said it was “tough” dealing with trade rumors last season but he learned to deal with those distractions and others while playing in Los Angeles, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays on Twitter. Ball added that he’s excited to get back to playing the style of basketball he’s accustomed to.
  • Ingram said he is “pretty close” to resuming regular basketball activities, as ESPN relays. Ingram is recovering from surgery on his right arm that was performed to address a blood clot. Ingram added that he hasn’t played basketball since March. “I’m eager to pick up a basketball,” the forward added (via Guillory’s Twitter feed).
  • Nicolo Melli, who signed with the Pelicans this offseason, underwent knee surgery this offseason, Emiliano Carchia of Sportnado passes along. Melli agreed to sign with New Orleans via the room exception.

Southwest Notes: Westbrook, Hartenstein, Rabb, Ball, Grizzlies

Loyalty and friendship were a big part of the equation in the Rockets’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports. The Thunder wanted to grant Westbrook his preferred destination once OKC decided to go into full rebuild mode. His friendship with James Harden proved vital, according to Iko, and put Houston over the top compared to the Heat, the other main bidder for Westbrook. The Rockets’ front office believes the Westbrook and Harden pairing will work out, especially since they’ll be surrounded by shooters, a luxury that Westbrook didn’t have with the Thunder.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets reserve big man Isaiah Hartenstein will pass on the FIBA World Cup this summer in order to focus on next season, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Hartenstein, a 21-year-old 7-footer, informed the German national team that he has prioritized his NBA career. “I will need to prove I can belong here,” he told Urbonas.
  • Power forward Ivan Rabb and the Grizzlies have mutually agreed to push back his contract guarantee deadline to mid-October, Michael Wallace of the team’s website tweets. Rabb appeared in 49 games with Memphis last season, including 13 starts, averaging 5.8 PPG and 4.2 RPG. The 2017 second-round pick’s $1,618,520 salary for next season was due to be guaranteed today. He has a partial guarantee of $371,758.
  • New Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be cleared for full contact in two weeks, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball was shut down in March due to an ankle injury.
  • The aftermath of the Grizzlies’ busy offseason shows the vision of the front office, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Memphis has a younger core to build around and has acquired future assets to accelerate the process.