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December 5, 2020

Hornets pick LaMelo Ball in NBA draft

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE — LaMelo Ball is thrilled to have a chance to play for the Charlotte Hornets. But the 6-foot-7 point guard is more excited to play for the one of the greatest basketball players of all time in Michael Jordan.

“Man, straight blessing, for real,” Ball said of the six-time NBA champion and current Hornets owner. “I don’t even have enough words to say, I’m just blessed.”

The Hornets selected Ball with the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft, giving Jordan’s team a player with immediate notoriety and a rookie who can help put fans in the seats once the coronavirus subsides. Ball has amassed more than 5.6 million followers on Instagram — which is 600,000 more than last year’s No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

“He’s a very young talented player who plays the kind of pace that we like to play,” Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He has a flare to his game that maybe has some entertainment to it, maybe more so than some other players. (But) that’s not why we drafted him. We drafted him because of his size and length and the way he can handle the ball.”

It’s unclear what the addition of Ball means for Charlotte’s starting backcourt of Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier, the team’s two leading scorers last season.

Kupchak said he could foresee Ball playing some point forward alongside four other players who are 6-7 or shorter.

Ball is most comfortable with the ball in his hands and brings exceptional ball handling and court vision after playing for Australia’s Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League.

He’s considered a fearless shooter and finished 17th in the NBL last season in scoring, averaging 17 points per game although he only played in 12 games.

Ball first earned national attention during his freshman year at Chino Hills High School in California where he won a state title playing alongside his older brothers LiAngelo and Lonzo, who now plays for New Orleans Pelicans. Ball left to play professionally overseas after his junior season of high school, first playing in the Lithuanian league and later for the Hawks. Lonzo and LaMelo are the first brothers to be selected in the top five. “I feel like I was born to do this,” Ball said.

Wolves take Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with No. 1 pick

Associated Press

Anthony Edwards was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night in an NBA draft delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Edwards became the 11th straight one-and-done player to be the No. 1 pick, coming in a year where there was no clear obvious choice. He averaged 19.1 points for the Bulldogs, tops among all freshman.

Commissioner Adam Silver announced the pick from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The draft was originally scheduled for June 25 before multiple delays caused by the virus pushed it back out and out of its usual home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Tears flowed freely for many players Wednesday night when their long-awaited, repeatedly delayed NBA dreams were finally realized.

Edwards watched while seated next to portraits of his late mother and grandmother. They both died of cancer and he was emotional after his name was announced.

“As far as just being excited and just being happy and ready to go and ready to work and ready to get there as soon as possible, those emotions were overwhelming with just my mother and grandmother being there,” Edwards said. “I mean, it was just a dream come true and just a blessing.”

The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson sustained another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took Memphis center James Wiseman with the second pick.

And though there wasn’t the usual family table in the green room and trip on stage to meet the commissioner, some players still were outfitted in fashionable attire — perhaps none more than No. 12 pick Tyrese Haliburton of Sacramento, whose blue, floral suit had the words “Black Lives Matter” on the inside.

They celebrated with family, friends, coaches — and in North Carolina star Cole Anthony’s case, even celebrity fans. Movie director Spike Lee jumped up and down with his family when Orlando took Anthony, whose father, Greg played for the Knicks, at No. 15.

Some moments triggered deeper emotions. Okongwu, taken No. 6 by Atlanta, recalled his older brother, Nnamdi, who died after a skateboarding accident in 2014.
Toppin, the national player of the year last season at Dayton, struggled to speak after the New York Knicks took him at No. 8, bringing the Brooklyn-born forward to his hometown.

“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” Toppin said. “Me repping my city, it’s amazing.”

 

The newcomers will have precious little time to prepare for their debuts and need to knock off months of rust or more. Training camps open in early December and the 72-game 2020-21 season is set to begin on Dec. 22.

“This draft process has been the longest for me, so I’ve just been working on my game,” Wiseman said. “I’ve actually been playing pickup games with pros already, so I’ve been getting a lot of experience. But really just focusing on myself. I’m truly ready to play with these great guys.”

Teams had to evaluate prospects without benefit of the usual draft combine in Chicago or the ability to invite them to their facilities for workouts and meetings. And with the coronavirus shutting down the sports world in March, there was no NCAA Tournament for the players to make a final impression before entering the draft.

That helped contribute to perhaps more questions than usual surrounding the draft, with little feel for how the top few picks would play out.

The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams of Florida State, the ACC sixth man of the year as a freshman, at No. 4. Cleveland followed with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, another freshman, to round out the top five.

The latter half of the top 10 featured a couple highly regarded international players in France’s Killian Hayes, taken by Detroit at No. 7, and Deni Avdija, the highest player to come from Israel when Washington picked him at No. 9.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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