NBC Sports

Steph-LaMelo matchup promises great show in Dubs-Hornets

NBC Sports

There is no more electrifying player in the NBA than Stephen Curry, and the Warriors superstar will be bringing MVP-caliber numbers to his annual Charlotte homecoming at 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon.

There is no more exciting teenager in the NBA than Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball, and he’ll be waiting for Curry at Spectrum Center.

The only promotional disappointment is that this event, so perfect for a live audience, is that fans will not be invited into the arena. Everything else is money.

It’s point guard vs. point guard, Hall of Fame marquee veteran vs. marquee rookie, son of a former NBA star known for his composure and shooting vs. son of a man who introduced himself with boisterous self-promotion.

Above all, it’s the reigning champion of NBA entertainers vs. the kid whose court charisma might make him heir to the throne.

“He looks pretty comfortable for a rookie,” Curry said of Ball late Friday, after a 124-120 loss to the Magic in Orlando. “He’s playing well. I feel like he’s getting better, and that’s the trend you want to be on.”

After coming off the bench for the first five weeks, Ball is in the starting lineup and posting solid numbers, averaging 14.6 points and a team-high 6.1 assists per game. He posted his first NBA triple-double in a win over the Atlanta Hawks last month and has three double-digit assist games, and five double-digit rebounding games.

Most of the conversation around Ball, however, revolves around his knack for setting up teammates with passing ability reminiscent of young Jason Kidd. 

 

“He’s playing well,” Draymond Green said. “Shooting the ball well, passing the ball extremely well.”

Ball’s Wins Above Replacement Player rating is on pace to be the highest ever for an NBA rook, well above the likes of Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony but also a bit higher than LeBron James, an undeniably high-impact rookie.

Charlotte, which also added veteran forward Gordon Hayward in the offseason, is 13-15 overall but 6-4 over its last 10 games. Three games, including two this week, have been postponed due to COVID-related issues. 

At 6-foot-6, 190 pounds, Ball’s presence and flair are making people forget about his father, LaVar, while making the Hornets more watchable than they’ve been in many years.

And Curry is among those paying attention, largely because his father, Dell, is a former Hornet who now is the team’s TV color analyst.

“I watch as many games as I can,” Curry said a few days ago, mentioning his father and play-by-play voice Eric Collins.

“Melo, he’s playing amazing. There was a lot of talk about what he could show in his rookie year and he’s surprising a lot of people.”

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It’s not that Stephen wants to humiliate the youngster in their first meeting, though there he surely remembers the shade thrown his way by LaVar Ball, who a few years ago claimed his oldest son, Lonzo, then at UCLA, was better than Curry, a two-time MVP.

Curry is not the type to make the son pay for the sins of the father.

Curry definitely is the type to want to take over a building – particularly one in the area where he went to high school and college. Where his parents and so many other relatives and live.

“Everybody loves to go home and play,” Green said. “His normally show up in the form of huge nights.”

Curry averages 27.2 points per game against the Hornets, his fourth-highest against any team. His 49.7-percent shooting from distance is behind only an even 50 percent against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

After the Warriors blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead Friday night, Curry seems especially eager to make a statement.

“I’ve got to personally play better,” he said after scoring 29 points on 11-of-29 shooting. “I’m not panicking about shooting. Just have to step it up and understand we have to get off to a good start.

“I’m going to have a good energy about me for sure, being back home.”

There are no tickets, so one has to rely on a TV or a computer or a cell phone. It’s the way of this season, and it’s still a great way to watch the show.

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