NBA

Lonzo Ball Had the Best Game of His NBA Career a Few Days After His Standing on the Pelicans Was in Jeopardy

When the LA Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, he was projected to be the team’s franchise point guard for the next decade. However, the Lakers traded Ball to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019 in the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade.

Despite having a solid first season with the Pelicans, Ball couldn’t reach a rookie-scale extension with New Orleans before the 2020-21 season. As a result, the playmaking guard will enter restricted free agency in the offseason of 2021 once the Pelicans offer him his qualifying offer.

The beginning of the 2020-21 season has been rough for Ball. Not only did he have to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ball saw his name come up in trade rumors again.

However, this time, Lonzo Ball responded to the trade rumors like a true professional.

The Pelicans are open to trading Lonzo Ball

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According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Pelicans have been receiving calls about Lonzo Ball’s availability and are open to moving him. New Orleans is building around Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson instead of Ball.

In his first season with the Pelicans, Ball averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 40.3% from the field, 37.5% from beyond the arc, and 56.6% from the free-throw line. New Orleans missed the playoffs and fired Alvin Gentry once the offseason began. Former Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy was hired as Gentry’s replacement.

When Lonzo Ball was in trade rumors during the 2018-19 season, he let the noise affect his play on the court. Now more mature and wiser, the California native controls what he can control and lets his play do the talking for him.

Lonzo Ball scored 27 points and hit seven 3-pointers against the Bucks

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In his second game after rumors started to swirl about his standing on the Pelicans, Lonzo Ball went off for 27 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. The former second overall pick hit seven 3-pointers and dished out eight assists as well.

Thanks to Ball’s stellar performance, the Pelicans defeated the Bucks by a final score of 131-126. During his media session with reporters, the former UCLA star said he’s blocking out all the trade rumors.

“I just stay the course,” Ball said, via ESPN. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. I put a lot of work in and just try to play my game. That’s how I play. I just try to stay away from all the noise and just go out there and try to help my team win games.”

This was a terrific all-around game from Ball, who showed the Pelicans that trading him would be a mistake. Maybe New Orleans leaked the trade rumor on purpose so Ball would take his game to another level.

In the rugged Western Conference, the Pelicans will struggle to make the playoffs if Lonzo Ball doesn’t play at an All-Star level every night. It will be interesting to see if the ex-Lakers guard can continue to play sound basketball.

The Pelicans will likely trade someone

JJ Redick was the other Pelicans player mentioned in trade rumors. He’s a veteran shooter better suited to play for a contender. If Lonzo Ball isn’t traded, don’t be surprised if Redick is moved.

This is a big season for Ball. If he wants to get paid in the offseason, Lonzo has to show the Pelicans–and the other teams in the league–that he can be a consistent performer.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.