Bulls Insider

Ball dodges revelations, Bulls question in predraft presser

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider
USA Today

Here’s what is clear after watching LaMelo Ball field questions for close to 25 minutes during a Monday Zoom press conference as part of the revamped (and virtual) 2020 NBA Draft Combine:

The point guard feels he can fit in with any team, that his experiences playing professionally in Lithuania and Australia matured and prepared him for the NBA, and that there’s clear separation between himself and his outspoken father, LaVar.

Here’s what is unclear:

Pretty much everything else.

In a session that seemed part performance art and part bad Zoom connection, Ball projected an air of ease and confidence that flirted with drifting into indifference as far as the whole answering questions part entailed.

Almost bizarrely, he even responded “I don’t know” when asked if he had had any predraft contact with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets, who own the Nos. 1 and 3 picks, respectively, in the NBA draft currently scheduled for Nov. 18.

Ball, the younger brother of Pelicans point guard Lonzo, also said he hadn’t spoken to the Bulls, who own the No. 4 pick.

In fact, the only team Ball confirmed he has had contact with was the New York Knicks, who, drafting eighth, would likely have to trade up to acquire the uber-talented, 6-foot-8 guard. Ball answered “no” when asked if had talked to the Phoenix Suns or Detroit Pistons, said he didn’t think he had talked to the Cleveland Cavaliers and offered this when asked about LaVar claiming he wouldn’t fit with the Golden State Warriors, who own the No. 2 pick.

 

“I’m my own man. He’s his own man. He has his opinions. I have mine,” LaMelo said. “I feel I can play on any team and do good anywhere I go. Anything that happens, I’m positive.

“Anywhere is a great fit. It’s the NBA. You put me with good players I feel it’s going to be even better.”

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Ball owns the greatest name recognition in a draft that is largely devoid of projected superstar power and will undergo an unprecedented process due to COVID-19 restrictions. Ball said he liked the unique predraft process because he considers his game and skillset unique.

Indeed, he wouldn’t compare himself to any player.

“I’m myself,” he said.

Ball spoke from inside a gym where he had just finished a workout near Detroit. That’s where he said he has largely been since the pandemic halted normalcy in mid-March.

“Just as in the winning aspect,” Ball said when asked why he believes he fits with any team. “Put the best five out and I can play.”

Just 19, Ball has been in the spotlight for years. While questions remain about his shooting form and whether he needs the ball in his hands to be effective, he’s projected to be a top-three pick in virtually every mock. And in a rare flash of effusiveness, he admitted to dreaming about being the No. 1 pick.

“Ever since I was little when you do little projects and stuff, that was one of my goals, to go to the NBA and be the No. 1 pick,” he said.

It’s clear that his unconventional path to the NBA draft has given him confidence. Not only because he had to live overseas but because he played with older players.

“Honestly, I feel like that helped a lot. I feel like that’s how I am now with any team that picks me I’m good because being over there is a whole different world. It’s something you have to see,” Ball said of his professional, international experience. “Even with Lithuania, I’ve been through that too. It’s just a whole lot of stuff I’ve been through to make me who I am today. So I’m grateful for it.”

Ball also said fans can view him and his game however they wish.

“I don’t really care. Everybody has their own opinion,” he said. “However they want to view me, I feel they should be able to.”

It’s how the teams view Ball that matters. Just don’t ask him which ones he has talked to — though, you know, the draft remains weeks away.