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Lonzo, LaMelo Ball face off Friday night in ‘real game’ for first time

Are the Knicks back? It's early in the season, but Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson like what they're seeing from this Knicks roster so far and the culture that Tom Thibodeau is bringing to New York.

Lonzo Ball and his younger brother LeMelo Ball were teammates for a season at Chino Hills High School and played against each other in pickup games and scrimmages over the years.

Friday night, for the first time, Lonzo and LaMelo will face off in an NBA game when Charlotte travels to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. Lonzo spoke about the showdown, quote via Andrew Lopez at ESPN.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lonzo said on Thursday. “This is our first time matching up in a real game. ... I think it just shows that all the hard work paid off. We’re really close, we grew up together doing the same thing even though he’s younger than I am.”

Lonzo said he has offered advice on adjusting to the NBA to his brother, who is three years younger. They both talked about the back-yard scrimmages they and friends would have at the Ball house.

“That’s probably the most competitive basketball I’ve been in -- in the backyard, back there fighting, scrapping, falling on concrete, playing hella hard,” LaMelo said on Thursday. “Parents getting scared when their kids go back there. It was a whole lot. Just something you had to witness, for real.”

The brothers may be matched up on one another at points (Lonzo starts for New Orleans, LaMelo comes off the bench for Charlotte).

LaMelo, drafted No. 3 overall by Charlotte, is averaging 11.8 points a game so far, has shown a true passing gift (4.9 assists a night), and is a surprisingly good rebounder as a guard. Funky release or not, the younger Ball is hitting 34.3% from three, but he has struggled to finish inside the arc (shooting less than 50% on shots at the rim in the restricted area — he needs to get stronger). He’s having the expected defensive lapses for a rookie (he gets caught ball watching, for example), but he shows a lot of promise for the Hornets.

Lonzo, in his fourth year (and playing for his next contract, he is a restricted free agent next offseason), is averaging 13.4 points a game and has a good passing connection with Zion Williamson.

Hopefully, we’ll get to see the brothers matchup up against one another a few times (something Lonzo said didn’t happen much in their backyard games because of the age/size difference between them). It’s going to be just like the Ball back yard, just with a nicer court, a few more cameras, and better players around them.