LaMelo Ball tonight:
He is the youngest player with a 25/15/10 game in the last 40 seasons. pic.twitter.com/23QrdkjE3E
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 9, 2021
When the Charlotte Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft the feeling was this was going to be his team. In his rookie season Ball was named Rookie of the Year despite missing 21 games.
He helped lead the young, inexperienced Hornets to the play-in round of the NBA playoffs. In many ways the Hornets overachieved last season, but this season was supposed to be the team’s coming-out party where they solidify one of those eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
After a strong 5-2 start the team is mired in a four-game losing streak, including blowout losses at the Warriors and Kings. Sunday’s loss to the Clippers was very winnable. While Ball inexplicably sat on the bench, the Hornets struggled to get into sets and score late in the game.
Ball Speaks About Playing Time In The Fourth Quarter
Ball is averaging 30 minutes of playing time per game this season, which is actually kind of low for a 20-year-old drafted to be the face of the franchise. Yes, Ish Smith and Terry Rozier do an adequate job running the offense while Ball is sitting, but neither should be at the controls of a close game in the fourth quarter with a healthy and capable Ball availaible.
The Hornets trailed the Clippers 89-87 entering the fourth quarter, and Ball had played well to that point, putting in 18 points, six assists and three rebounds. But Borrego inexplicably left his star point guard out for a bulk of the quarter as the Clippers went on a 22-0 run to get separation from the Hornets and win 120-106.
The Hornets had four turnovers and the offense became stagnant with Terry Rozier at the helm. Rozier is an OK ball handler, but not one who usually makes teammates better. Even he plays better with Ball setting him up.
Ball let his feelings be known about his lack of playing time in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like I’ve got to be in there longer for the fourth quarter, you feel me? I feel like I came in a little late in the game.”
According To LaVar Ball, LaMelo Wasn’t Happy About Not Starting Early Last Season
LaVar made the claim last season that LaMelo was upset about not starting over the team’s current point guards.
“My thing is he ain’t happy with that, but he ain’t gon’ show that. If I train you to be the best and always been starting all your life — need is what they don’t get. My boys are not freakin’ role players| They superstars! Let them do what they do.!”
Borrego had this rebuttal:
“If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me. If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively.”
Melo handled that shot with maturity. He continues to stay confident and remain a team player. A few weeks ago, Ball told Borrego to leave him on the bench and stick with Ish Smith as he was playing well in a Hornets win over the Nets.
“Melo, I’ve got to give Melo a ton of credit,” Borrego said. “Just ride out Ish. Ish is hot, Ish is rolling. I trust it. Let’s go.”
Ball has had a great start to his sophomore season, averaging 20 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds per night.
Hornets Offense Changes Drastically With Ball On The Bench
Stats show the team’s offense suffers immensely with the rising star on the bench, dropping a mind-boggling 14.8 points per 100 possessions. This season Ball is averaging just over eight minutes played per fourth quarter, which is about normal for a lead guard, but with his team on a losing streak and in a very winnable game, the young phenom felt he could’ve made a difference. He proved this on Monday night. Ball didn’t just impact the game, he had an historic output for someone his age.
Hopefully, this becomes the norm for Ball going forward as he should be in the game in the fourth quarter. The numbers support this.