Illawarra Hawks NBL Next Star LaMelo Ball has returned home to the US today to continue his rehabilitation and preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft. Ball, 18, had previously been ruled out for the remainder of the 2019-20 Hungry Jack’s NBL season due to a foot injury. He played 12 games for the Hawks and averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game.
Why is LaMelo shutting it down now? We’re six weeks out from the original injury, and questions were starting to arise about his future there. Few NBA executives are surprised by this news, and even fewer who have spoken with The Athletic believe this is wholly about the injury. There has been an assumption throughout league offices that from the time Ball injured his foot, he was going to shut it down. That’s not to say the foot injury is illegitimate.
Simply put, folks within NBA front offices believed that Ball would come to the conclusion he had done enough to place himself into a comfortable position entering the pre-draft process. While one executive did make a case to me that Ball could legitimately help himself by playing, no one really expected it. Also, there wasn’t much left for him to compete for from a team concept either.
Having said that, the early indications from scouts that I’ve talked to have been largely positive. He’s put his head down and worked since he’s been in Australia. People who have come into contact with him have come away impressed with his maturity level after he’s had to deal with a lot of personal upheaval in his life over the last few years. His mother had a stroke. He was pulled out of high school. He’s traveled the globe trying to find a basketball home. It’s been a lot in the last 24 months. All of this occurring while achieving a level of viral internet fame that few people his age have received. And yet, sources say he’s adjusted to it all and is a good kid.
LaMelo Ball has shut it down for good in Australia with a foot injury, but still should be a top-three pick in June’s draft. According to a source, the Knicks never got a chance to see the 6-foot-7 forward play live Down Under. Brass had plotted the trip for this month. In Ball’s last two games in the Australian National Basketball League in late November, he struck for consecutive triple-doubles. Par for the course. Maybe it won’t matter. There’s no guarantee president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry will make the Knicks’ lottery selection in June. To their credit, Mills and Perry have assembled six first-round picks in the next four drafts.
LaMelo Ball’s decision to shut it down didn’t come as much of a surprise. “Duh,” an Eastern Conference executive told foxsports.com.au late on Thursday evening, after seeing our reporting.
LaMelo Ball’s time playing in the NBL has come to an end. On Thursday evening, Ball’s manager and trainer, Jermaine Jackson, confirmed to foxsports.com.au that the point guard won’t play any more games for the Illawarra Hawks; the projected top-3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft shutting it down for the remainder of the season.
Ball had been out since December 8 with a bone bruise in his foot, and Jackson said that the conclusion from Ball’s most recent visit to the doctor was that he’s “totally healthy,” but would have to train for a further six weeks until he’s ready to play in games. “Yeah he’s done,” Jackson said via text, when asked if Ball was out for the remainder of the season.
“It’s unfortunate that it has to be shut down for injury,” Hawks head coach, Matt Flinn, told foxsports.com.au via text, after news of Ball’s latest development was released. “The kid was on a rapid rise of development, mostly due to the work we put into him with team concepts. “The Ball camp, regardless of what happens, will owe us a great load of gratitude. I love LaMelo and have had a ball coaching him.... pun intended.”
LaVar Ball began a recent media blitz in Australia with a stop on The Daily Telegraph’s The Big Chat and was offered a chance to shoot down the rumors himself. Host Adam Mobbs asked Ball where they stood in regards to Ball’s injury and his future in the league. “Where we stand on that is it’s (dependent) on how the injury heals. You have to make speculation for the media. It keeps the buzz going…My thing is this, I said ‘Melo, if you 80%, don’t come back. If you’re 100%, whether there’s one game, five games or no games left, that’s when you come back. But don’t rush in and have people trying to push you to come back ahead of time.'”
Mobbs followed it up by pushing more directly on the matter, asking if LaMelo would finish the league if he was 100% healthy. “Yes. Yes. You like to finish what you start. Go ahead and finish that…You don’t want to be (thinking) like ‘Oh, I might get hurt. I don’t want to do this.’ If you’re thinking like that, don’t play. This is a physical sport. It comes with the territory.”
Illawarra Hawks star and the projected first pick in next year’s NBA draft LaMelo Ball will miss approximately four weeks with a foot injury. Ball suffered a bruised foot in practice and was prescribed to rest by a specialist, which will likely keep him out of action until January. The NBL Next Star has had a major impact on the Hawks thus far, averaging 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 31 minutes per game, dramatically improving his draft stock in the process.
June 29, 2022 | 2:15 pm EDT Update
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