Hornets’ LaMelo Ball has NBA, Clippers’ attention, respect – OCRegister

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Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, tries to pass the ball from the floor while under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, top, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, center, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, and guard Reggie Jackson defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, fouls Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington, lower right, and center Bismack Biyombo defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk, top, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, tries to pass the ball from the floor while under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, fouls Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, top, shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, right, passes the ball as Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington, lower right, and center Bismack Biyombo defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk, top, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, center, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, and guard Reggie Jackson defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 125-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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LOS ANGELES — Naturally, LaMelo Ball didn’t slip back into Staples Center unnoticed Saturday, when the Clippers got their first look at the youngest of the high-profile Ball brothers.
After entering the public’s consciousness as a brightening star at Chino Hills High School, LaMelo Ball’s first NBA swing through L.A. tipped off Thursday with a 26-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance in Charlotte’s loss to the Lakers.
Selected No. 3 overall by the Hornets in last year’s draft, the rookie had the Clippers’ attention — and with good reason. The 19-year-old is more than flash: He’s averaging 16 points (most by a rookie beside top pick Anthony Edwards’ 16.7 points) and 6.2 assists (most among rookies and tied for 21st league-wide with Golden State star Steph Curry).
“Kid’s special. He’s very talented,” Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said, via Zoom, from outside shootaround Saturday morning. “His mind, he’s ahead. He’s confident in himself. He’s making everyone around him better. So we definitely see the type of player he is, and how he’s going to be throughout this league for a long, long time.”

Clippers’ coach Tyronn Lue said he — like everyone else who’s watched — has been wowed by Ball’s on-court vision.
“Just the things he’s seeing on the floor and just watching tape and watching film on him he makes some passes that you don’t think most people would see,” Lue said before tip-off Saturday. “He delivers it on time and on target.”
Ball’s own coach, James Borrego, echoed the Clippers’ appreciation, marveling at Ball’s beyond-his-years composure — and his inherent daring, which he said reminds him of the way San Antonio Spurs great Manu Ginóbili played.

“At the age of 19, to come into the NBA and not be phased by the moment, by the schedule, by the pace of play, it’s like he’s been doing this for a number of years,” Borrego said of Ball, who’s already had a 34-point game and a 12-assist game already in his 40-game NBA care.
“And secondly its just his ability to impact winning; at such a young age he’s had such an impact on us winning a number of games this year and that’s not always the case for a 19-year-old. You can look up and down the draft board, it just doesn’t happen very often.”

“Who would I compare him to?” continued Borrego, who was an assistant coach in San Antonio for three seasons before taking over in Charlotte. “The closest thing I’ve seen that I’ve been around and coached is Manu Ginóbili. Just the ability to make plays off instinct, off competitive spirit, at times just making something out of nothing. And secondly, just trying to hit home run after home run, they both have that ability.”
Which is why, Jackson said, the Clippers needed to make it a point to slow Ball’s bounce.
“Really just gotta try and slow down his pace,” said the Clippers guard, who’s known to exhibit a bit of flair at times, too. “Gotta test his handle, try to get him off balance a little bit … Gotta make him work on the defensive end as well. Offensively, just gotta make him as uncomfortable as possible. Not allow him to see over the defense, and we gotta take care of the ball offensively. Because where he’s very special is getting out in transition and making plays for everybody.”

INJURIES – NO UPDATES

The Clippers went into Saturday’s game down a couple of starters again.
Center Serge Ibaka missed his third consecutive game after leaving the Clippers’ loss in New Orleans early with lower back tightness. Guard Patrick Beverley was out again, too, nursing the sore right knee that caused him to miss all of the three-game road trip.
Neither player was able to participate in practice Friday, according to Lue, who described their participation thusly: “Nothing.”

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