Mother of teen who died in foster care files claim against county
Encinitas man gets life sentence in girlfriend’s 2019 death
Federal bill would rename San Diego VA Medical Center after fallen soldier Jennifer Moreno
Lifeguards pull 3 Mexican citizens from ocean after report of large-scale crossing attempt
County names long-time elections official as new Registrar of Voters
San Diego adopts new policy wiping out parking requirements for many businesses
El Cajon police arrest 2 in slaying of sleeping man shot through bedroom window
UC San Diego has 9th highest number of top scientists in the world and could soon pass MIT
Police seek tips in case of man found slain near Gaslamp Quarter
San Diego biotech debuts pea-sized microchip to help diagnose disease, discover drugs
LaMelo Ball made the transition from playing basketball overseas to the NBA last season look fairly easy, breezing his way to rookie of the year honors.
Now Hornets coach James Borrego wants the point guard to take the next step.
For Borrego, that means the No. 3 overall pick in 2020 gaining a deeper understanding of who the Hornets are as a team, what to look for in certain in-game situations and taking on more of a leadership role through communication with his teammates.
“I want him to take the reins of this program,” Borrego said. “He’s the quarterback, the floor general and for us to take that next step he must run this team, not only on the offensive end but the defensive end as well.”
The Hornets went 33-39 last season, finishing 10th in the East and losing to the Indiana Pacers in the play-in game. The bar is set a little higher this year with shooting guard Terry Rozier saying anything but the playoffs would be “an absolute fail.”
Borrego has been working closely with Ball in one-on-one sessions, stressing the importance of understanding situations.
For instance, if the Hornets are down 3 in the closing seconds, he wants Ball to know where Rozier and Gordon Hayward are on the floor and how to get them the ball. He wants him to know when to attack a defender off a pick and roll and when to pass. The coach wants his point guard to know when to walk the ball up the floor and when to push the tempo.
Because of the shortened offseason and a condensed regular season last year due to COVID-19, Ball didn’t get a chance to learn much from coaches.
Borrego would often find himself yelling instructions to Ball from the bench.
He doesn’t want to have to do that this year.
“A lot of his success last year was based on instinct and feel,” Borrego said. “Now his next step is managing who we are, his personnel around him and understanding the league in general. So our conversation as been around our team, our strengths, our values and understanding his teammates.”
Ball said he’s “definitely” up to the challenge.
“It’s going over plays and stuff and watching film and knowing where to be at and where others players are to be,” Ball said. “It’s leading the pack.”
The brother of Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo and free agent LiAngelo, LaMelo averaged 15.7 points. 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds last season and won rookie of the month honor three times.
There were concerns about his unorthodox 3-point stroke coming into the league, but he shot a respectable 37.5% from 3-point range through 41 games before breaking his wrist. He returned five weeks later, but could regularly be seen favoring the wrist and it clearly affected his shot. He made just 24.4% from beyond the arc over the final 10 games.
“To say I was 100%? Nah,” Ball said shaking his head.
But teammate Miles Bridges said Ball’s shot looks great now and he’s back to fearlessly attacking the rim — and looks ready to lead the Hornets.
“Melo, he’s still young,” Bridges said. “We sometimes forget that he’s 20 years old. So he’s doing a great job of being a leader on the offensive end. He’s just communicating more and that’s what we want to work on. It’s not hard. He’s a very vocal player. But just him just being comfortable with saying stuff” to other players.
Said Ball: “That’s a point guard. I’m definitely going to lead. All of my life I’ve been leading. So it’s a great position for me.”
Borrego talks repeatedly about how much he enjoys coaching Ball and loves his enthusiasm.
He likes that Ball has been at every team function, attending a players-only trip to Miami earlier this offseason and traveling Las Vegas to watch the Summer League. The California native also spent the summer in Charlotte, dialed in on improving his game and developing chemistry with his teammates.
“He is fully engaged and I love that about him,” Borrego said. “I expect a big year from him, and I expect him to take another step.”
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Sign up for U-T Sports daily newsletter
The latest Padres, Chargers and Aztecs headlines along with the other top San Diego sports stories every morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
More in this section
Tuesday’s Sports In Brief
BASEBALL NEW YORK (AP) — Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash became the second skipper to win Manager of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons, taking the American League award, and San Francisco’s Gabe Kapler won the NL honor.
Sabres focused on looking ahead with Eichel now in the past
The Buffalo Sabres are focused solely on looking forward in developing a young core of a team with Jack Eichel now firmly in their past
Surprising teams on wrong side of Week 10 blowouts
It was another blowout-filled weekend in the NFL only this time several of teams on the losing end came from teams near the top of the standings
One grand night: Zegras OT goal gives Ducks 1,000th victory
The Anaheim Ducks extended their winning streak to eight on Tuesday night and picked up the 1,000th victory in franchise history with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals
Hurricanes open six-game road trip with 4-2 win at Vegas
Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2
Curry and Warriors rout Nets
Stephen Curry had 37 points, easily winning matchup of the NBA’s top two scorers when Kevin Durant had his worst night of the season, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-99 on Tuesday.