76ers

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With the ball in his hands on the Los Angeles Lakers' home court, Lonzo Ball was exactly where he always wanted to be.

Ball's new Lakers workout gear was soaked with sweat after he went through his individual pre-draft workout Wednesday for Magic Johnson and coach Luke Walton at their training complex. The tantalizing UCLA product left no doubt that he hopes his favorite team chooses him with the second overall pick.

"Of course," Ball said. "I want to stay home."

The Lakers have roughly two weeks to decide whether to hitch their franchise rebuilding effort to the 6-foot-6 point guard — and by extension to his outspoken father, LaVar, who didn't attend the workout.

After enduring the worst four-year stretch in franchise history, the Lakers hope to rebound next fall with their new draft choice alongside fellow No. 2 picks D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball is generally considered the front-runner to become the Lakers' new catalyst, with some analysts even believing he surpasses Markelle Fultz and the rest of the draft pool as the prospect with the greatest potential for superstardom.

Ball doesn't shy from the responsibility that would come with his selection, either: He plans to be a leader for his NBA team from his first day on the roster.

"They have a lot of good players," Ball said. "Obviously they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel like I can bring that to the team."

But every NBA team with a top draft pick is clearly weighing Ball's talent against the potential perils of choosing a somewhat unorthodox 19-year-old with a heavily involved parent currently trying to sell $495 basketball shoes online. Lonzo didn't wear Big Baller Brand's ZO2: Prime shoes for his Lakers workout.

Any potential concerns felt by the Lakers haven't filtered through to Ball, who was still excited about his getting-to-know-you dinner in Venice on Tuesday with the Lakers' top brass, including Magic and general manager Rob Pelinka.

"I got positive vibes," Ball said. "I had a lot of fun. It was great meeting everybody here, and they were very welcoming."

He was particularly thrilled to meet Johnson, the Hall of Famer now directing the Lakers' rebuild as their president of basketball operations. The 6-foot-9 former point guard provided the template for Ball's approach to hoops through LaVar, an ardent Magic fan.

"Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players ever to play," Ball said. "And I love the way Coach (Walton) wants to coach us, and then Rob is a great dude, too. So just meeting all them, it was a great blessing."

Ball didn't say whether he will work out for other teams, claiming he'll leave it up to his agent. But his visit with the Lakers was his first individual workout, and LaVar has openly voiced his desire for his son to end up with the hometown team for many months.

After growing up 50 miles away in Chino Hills, Ball spent the last year 20 minutes north of the Lakers' El Segundo training complex in Westwood, where he led the Bruins' transformation from a regular underachiever into a 31-win team.

Ball is an aggressive, creative playmaker who also had one of the most accurate shots in NCAA history last season, albeit with an unorthodox shooting motion that will never be found in a textbook. Ball said he did "a lot of shooting" in his workout with the Lakers, who undoubtedly wanted a look at that release.

Ball's detractors question his defensive acumen and his ability to adapt his unusual shot to the pro game, but few doubt his status as an elite facilitator who could thrive in Walton's up-tempo, Golden State-inspired offense.

Yet the Lakers already have the 6-foot-5 Russell, who has shown flashes of brilliance as the point guard on two bad teams. Walton and the Lakers clearly believe Ball and Russell could share the same backcourt profitably.

Although Ball must wait a bit longer to find out whether his childhood dream will come true, he seemed quietly optimistic about the opportunity after his chance to impress Johnson and Walton in person.

"They said they want me to come in — if I get picked — come in and be a leader and play with a lot of pace," Ball said. "So the stuff they were saying was very positive, and it kind of fits my game."

Who will be Sixers' backup point guard in 2019-20 season?

Who will be Sixers' backup point guard in 2019-20 season?

With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: Who will be the Sixers' backup point guard this season?

Hudrick 

This a tough call and should be a legitimate competition.

I like Trey Burke’s game and his ability to get his own shot. It’s a strong NBA skill and not one many of the other Sixers have. He also doesn’t turn the ball over — he’s averaged less than a turnover a game in 17.3 minutes a game the last three seasons combined. He also shot 37.4 percent from three during that span, meaning he could also play next to Ben Simmons. If it were me, Burke would get the first crack at the role.

But Raul Neto seems like the more likely candidate to get backup point guard duties. Neto is a pure floor general who will bring a calming influence that should delight Brett Brown. He started playing professionally overseas when he was 16 and has 20 games of playoff experience under his belt. Neto’s only issue the past couple seasons has been durability, but when healthy, he’s a decent offensive playmaker and shooter (37.7 percent for his career from three).

It should be nice for Brown to have options for once. I still like Shake Milton’s game and would like to see him get a little time as the backup point this season — despite a tough summer league experience. I could also see Josh Richardson getting a few minutes as the team’s primary ball handler. He had the most ball-dominant season of his NBA career last season and averaged 4.1 assists.

Whichever player gets the role will also be aided by Al Horford, an outstanding passer for a big man (4.6 assists per game the last three seasons) who can run some point forward.

Levick 

This is an interesting sequel to the Jazz’s starting point guard competition in 2015-16, when Neto won the job over Burke. I expect that to happen again, but for Burke to still be in the mix and even preferred over Neto in some matchups. Here’s my thinking:

Neto was signed before Burke and his contract is fully guaranteed, whereas Burke’s deal is partially guaranteed, according to reports. Those details don’t indicate the spot is automatically Neto’s, but they do suggest the competition might be slightly tipped in his favor to start.

Burke is a positive in several areas offensively. He’s excellent in the pick-and-roll, has a good assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6 assists to 1.3 turnover for his career) and can create offense out of nothing. Defensively, he’s poor, to the extent that you’d be worried whether he can be picked on in a playoff setting. The 6-foot-1 guard has a defensive box plus-minus of minus-3 or lower each of the last three seasons.

Neto isn’t great defensively, but you figure Brown would be inclined to trust him over Burke. He doesn’t have Burke’s “I’ll get you a bucket” sort of game, but the Brazilian can also put pressure on a defense. In just 12.8 minutes per game last year, he averaged 7.1 drives, shooting 51.9 percent on those possessions.

It’s a luxury to have someone like Burke who can explode for 42 points in a game or go on a solo scoring run, and he could become a necessity if Neto deals with injuries, as he has the last three seasons. Even in the event both are healthy, if the Sixers are struggling to score from the perimeter and/or facing a small point guard who’s a weak defender, Burke might be the guy.

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Uh Oh: Stephen A. Smith is predicting HUGE things for Sixers this season

Uh Oh: Stephen A. Smith is predicting HUGE things for Sixers this season

Stephen A. Smith's track record of predicting things is suspect to say the least.

So it's with great trepidation that Philadelphia 76ers fans should watch the below clip in which he predicts an NBA Finals appearance for Brett Brown's club this coming season.

Smith made the prediction on ESPN's First Take on Friday morning while sitting alongside NBA legend Magic Johnson (the joke about tampering with Giannis may have been the highlight of the segment).

"The Philadelphia 76ers are going to the NBA Finals," Smith declares. "I'm going to defer to my man Jalen Rose when he points out that Boston arguably has the best perimeter shooting team. We can't ignore that. Toronto lost Kawhi, ain't nothing to discuss. The Greek Freak, as phenomenal as he is, the combo of not having a reliable perimeter shot combined with Malcolm Brogdon being in Indiana..."

"My attitude is, I don't like the fact that Philly lost JJ Redick, that's a big loss to me," Smith continues. "The fact that Boston no longer has Al Horford and the Sixers do, not only somebody to pair with Embiid but to spell him whenever he's out. I'm going to believe Ben Simmons has been working on his shot. I'm going to believe Tobias Harris doesn't have to worry about co-existing with Jimmy Butler and that's a plus. I'm going to believe Josh Richardson can play at both ends of the floor..."

"I'm a little suspect on their bench, but I think the Sixers are going to be playing in June."

On the bright side for Philly fans, it's not like Smith is making some bold proclamation here. FiveThirtyEight's prediction model actually gives the Sixers the best chances of making the Finals of any team in the NBA given the East's weaker make up than the West. In fact, they give the Sixers almost twice as good a chance of doing so than the next closest Eastern contender the Bucks (54% vs. 27%).

So Stephen A. isn't going out on a limb, but it never feels great when he picks your squad in anything.

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