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One of the major narratives of this NBA season has been the major impact made by rookie LaMelo Ball for the Charlotte Hornets, as he recently became the youngest player ever to make seven three-pointers in a single game at 19 years, 171 days old, inspiring his team to a 119-94 win over the Houston Rockets earlier this month.
Only three other teenagers in NBA history have matched the feat: Luka Doncic, Coby White and Anfernee Simons. Yet Ball was the first of the group to do so in a double-double. His 10 assists topped any of his predecessors, as did his seven rebounds.
“I’m not sure where the respect level is for his shot yet,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Every team’s a little bit different with him. But he’ll continue to prove that he can shoot it. He shoots it with confidence.”
Borrego added, “This is a fun group. I love coaching them. They inspire me. I love the joy they play with, the unselfishness, the spirit that they have. Even when things aren’t going well, they have a calm spirit about themselves, a positive spirit. I’m just proud of them. They’re a joy to be around.”
The coach admits that he was worried over Ball’s long-range shooting prior to drafting him (third overall pick), but those concerns have since dissipated, with the youngster now a front runner for the rookie of the year award.
“When we went to L.A. to interview him and watch him, there was just a confidence about him in his shot. I think as I sat there with [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak], I looked over at him and said, ‘He’s gonna be fine.’ The kid oozes confidence. He believes it’s going in. That’s at least half the battle in this thing. He’s gonna continue that. He’s fearless,” explained Borrego.
Ball admitted that when he first arrived at Hornets training camp “they low-key tried to adjust” his shot, but he believed in his technique and talent: “I always stick with it myself. I said, ‘This is how I shoot. I’m confident in it. I’m good, let me go,’” the teenager said. “So, pretty much my whole life, [I] just stuck with it.”
Ball’s shooting ability has benefited Charlotte’s offence: not only does he offer a threat from behind the three-point line, the increasing attention being paid to him opens up space for others to thrive closer to the rim.
“It’s difficult on a defence. If he’s gonna make those shots, it’s gonna be difficult to stay in front of him,” Borrego said. “It opens up the court for everybody. You see that when ballhandlers, point guards can step out and shoot it with range. I guess the range he shot it with is really surprising. The way he shoots it with ease from range, it’s almost the same effortless shot whether he’s at the line or two feet behind the line.”
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Catch the following live NBA action this week on ESPN:
Saturday 20 February
02:30: Philadelphia 76ers v Chicago Bulls – LIVE on ESPN 2
05:00: LA Clippers v Utah Jazz – LIVE on ESPN 2
Sunday 21 February
22:30: New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics – LIVE on ESPN 2