Ball made highlight-worthy plays on a near-nightly basis, as the 2020 third overall pick averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds in 51 games. He became the youngest player to record a triple-double in NBA history and won the Rookie of the Year Award.
Naturally, the Hornets should be doing everything they can to keep LaMelo happy. But their training camp roster will undoubtedly upset him, hurting the possibility of the young star wanting to stay in Charlotte long-term.
The Charlotte Hornets left LaMelo Ball’s brother LiAngelo off of their Training Camp Roster
The Hornets released their camp roster days ahead of the exhibition opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 4. While LaMelo Ball obviously made the team, his brother LiAngelo Ball did not.
LiAngelo, the older brother of LaMelo and younger brother of Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, was absent from the list. ‘Gelo was signed to Charlotte’s Summer League roster, where he appeared in all five games for the Hornets. Averaging 17.4 minutes per game, Ball scored 9.6 points on 37.5% shooting, including a 34.5% clip from three. He was one of two players on the roster to appear in all five games, with first-round rookie Kai Jones being the other.
“LiAngelo did a good job in Summer League, I can say that,” Hornets coach James Borrego said to The Charlotte Observer. “As a basketball coach, I think he did a heck of a job in the time we had him there. What happens now in the future with LiAngelo, I don’t have that answer. I’ll leave that to [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] to discuss and describe as we go. I like our roster. We have a full 20-man roster ready to go.”
Both LaMelo and LaVar Ball won’t be happy
As of writing, LaVar Ball has yet to speak publically on the Hornets not moving forward with his middle son. But if it’s anything like when LiAngelo was cut by the Detroit Pistons last year, the outspoken Ball’s response won’t be pretty. The 22-year-old was signed to a training camp contract on December 2, 2020, but was waived 11 days later without appearing in a single preseason game.
“The people in Detroit are great. I love the fans, but the franchise over there is raggedy as hell,” said Ball last December on a Bleacher Report AMA. “They don’t know a good player. I was giving them a lottery pick for free! Has the skills to play and the notoriety to bring everybody to the game. How do you throw that out the window? They’re gonna learn the hard way. My boys are gonna end up together playing somewhere. ‘Gelo can shoot the lights out. That was raggedy what they did. But hey, they’re gonna learn the hard way.”
LaVar told the Los Angeles Times last spring that he had been telling Hornets owner Michael Jordan to add all of his boys to the roster. Surely, going down from two sons to one won’t be the result he was hoping for.
As for LaMelo, the 20-year-old was asked directly during Hornets Media Day whether he was disappointed his brother didn’t make the team.
“I mean, yeah, definitely,” ‘Melo said. “I don’t really know on that one. Just keep working.”
The Hornets might want to reconsider cutting LiAngelo Ball
The Hornets have very quietly put together a nice roster around LaMelo Ball. Terry Rozier enjoyed a breakout season in Charlotte last year, Gordon Hayward aims to return from injury, and Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington are both solid role players. But having two of the Ball brothers playing together would have made the Hornets must-see TV.
LiAngelo was the main attraction of Charlotte’s Summer League team, even more than 11th overall pick James Bouknight. As The Charlotte Observer described, “Nearly every shot he took was met with the crowd reaction of a player making or missing a game-winner.” That type of excitement paired with LaMelo could have skyrocketed the popularity of a franchise that hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since the original Charlotte Hornets did so in 2002.
Additionally, keeping LiAngelo keeps LaMelo happy. Jordan has struck out on a lot of draft picks over the years, but he seems to have gotten one right with the youngest Ball. So ensuring ‘Melo is satisfied with the direction of the organization is important, especially when LaVar implied early in the season that his youngest son wasn’t thrilled about coming off of the bench to start the season.
The Hornets have been given a potential All-Star and franchise cornerstone in LaMelo. If keeping his brother on the back of the bench is one way to keep him content, the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.