Bulls-Hornets the backdrop for latest Ball bro matchup

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

For both Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, the bond always goes back to the backyard.

There, along with middle brother LiAngelo and father LaVar, they built the foundation for future success.

"Lot of backyard battles," Lonzo said Monday morning, in advance of their third NBA matchup.

Added LaMelo: "We was always working out every day, always in the backyard, always training."

For years, the brothers played together on the same team. But with the Pelicans and Hornets splitting two meetings last season, Monday night's matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets provides an opportunity for one of the brothers to earn some temporary bragging rights.

Not that Lonzo would take it.

"My Dad is always talking. But as far as me and Melo, we haven't really said too much," Lonzo said. "We still just talk regular just as brothers, not really going against each other."

The bond is real. The appreciation for the lessons LaVar taught them is palpable. Both guards are as unselfish, pass-first players as one can find in the league.

"Probably my Pops just teaching us how to play at an early age, always looking up the floor and finding the open man," Lonzo said when asked where that trait originates. "So definitely was instilled by our father."

Both Lonzo and LaMelo said they know each other's games well, honed from my hours in the backyard and as AAU teammates.

"I think his uniqueness," Lonzo said when asked what he most admires about LaMelo's game. "I think he plays how he wants to play. And he's been doing that his whole life. Just a different kind of style of play, but it works for him."


Asked what he admires about him as a brother, Lonzo didn't hesitate.

"Just his work ethic," he said. "Working out with him from a young age, he put a lot into the game. And you can see he's getting all the benefits now."

Does Lonzo see any similarities in their games?

"I think yes and no. Growing up, I was more of a point guard. He was like a two guard. But he has point guard skills obviously. He can do both. He's a great scorer," Lonzo said. "We played together for a long time. So he took a lot from my game but I think he adapted it to his own thing."

Lonzo is averaging 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 43.2 percent from 3-point range for the Bulls. LaMelo is at 19.4 points, eight assists and 7.9 rebounds.

All three brothers spend plenty of the NBA offseason together. They don't take these opportunities for granted.

"We talked about this for a long time, just being here," LaMelo said. "So that's always a blessing. Just playing the game we love. It's real fun."

As the youngest, LaMelo said he "definitely" looked up to and learned a lot from Lonzo and LiAngelo. And he sees what Lonzo has said — that the oldest sibling has found a home with the Bulls.

"They gonna take you for you and let you play your own game," LaMelo said. "That's obviously the best."

NBC Sports Chicago's Rob Schaefer contributed.

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