Even with that on the record, league executives believe the Pelicans are willing to let Ball go if he gets an aggressive offer sheet or they find a different option. Ball has been linked to the Bulls for more than a year, sources say, and could also be on the Knicks’ list.
CH: Is New Orleans still an option? Rich Paul: We’re open-minded to the landscape of the league.
CH: Looking beyond the draft, you’ve got some free agents to get deals for this summer and one of them is New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, who will be a restricted free agent. What do you two ultimately want? Rich Paul: We’re open-minded. In free agency, we all understand what that is in this landscape of business. He’s a really good young player with the ability to become a great player. And so I think there’s a lot of interests there. We’re open-minded. The phone lines will definitely be open come free agency. At the end of the day, we’ll look to make the best deal.
Yet it's worth noting that inevitable rumbles of Lakers interest would not merely emanate from Simmons’ status as a Paul client like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Word is that the Lakers, on top of their well-chronicled need for more shooting, covet one more difference-making playmaker who would allow James and Davis to spend more time at power forward and center.
Expect to eventually hear of them searching for potential pathways, however obstacle-strewn they would be, to reacquiring restricted free agent-to-be Lonzo Ball for that reason.
Lonzo Ball update: New Orleans is unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball, sources said. Ball, 23, is among the top point guards on the free-agent market. The Bulls and Clippers are expected to be among the teams interested in him, according to sources. Ball averaged career-highs in points (14.6) and 3-point shooting (37.8) this past season.
Leon Rose knows Lavar Ball from their past when CAA repped the family. The father’s eccentricities are not an issue. Sources believe Lavar, a former tight end on the Jets’ practice squad, wants all his sons on Broadway, and the Knicks are on Lonzo’s radar. “He can take the ball out of [Julius] Randle’s hands and he’s improved his shooting,’’ an NBA scout said.
The Knicks spoke to New Orleans about a potential Ball trade prior to the deadline but nothing materialized. As recently as late in the regular season, there was no consensus on Ball among Knicks decision makers. Nunn, per sources, is among the guards who have been on the Knicks’ radar as they consider their offseason plans. Nunn shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game this season and shot it remarkably well in the second half of the season.
Lonzo Ball. Status: Restricted free agent. Odds he returns: 40-50 percent I’ve been torn when it comes to Ball’s future in New Orleans. I still believe he could be a great fit with the Pelicans because of his shooting, activity on defense and the special connection he’s developed with Williamson.
I also can understand why some people are iffy about paying a point guard like Ball $20 million per year when his shooting can be highly inconsistent, and the other parts of his game aren’t developed enough to make up for his poor shooting nights.
Griffin and his front office were listening to trade offers for Ball throughout the season, and I would expect them to continue pursuing other options to see what’s out there.
If I had to choose one way or the other, I would say the Pels get aggressive in their attempt to reshape the backcourt and move on from Ball. Once you hear a guy involved in as many trade rumors as Ball was, it’s only a matter of time before he’s sent elsewhere. But I’ll probably end up changing my mind once every other week before the deal finally gets done.
Gozlan on Ball and Hart: I think both of them combined could be around $35-40 million. Right now, the Pelicans have kind of a luxury tax crunch. They’re projected to have the 10th pick after the coinflips. They’re going to be like $37 million below the tax already with that pick. If they bring them both back, they’re basically at the tax.
The Chicago Bulls held serious trade talks at the deadline with the Pelicans for Ball. “Ball in Chicago will be an interesting one to watch,” said Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj & Lowe Podcast. The New York Knicks are another team expected to have interest in Ball. “I think Lonzo will get a pretty good number whether it’s Chicago or New York or some other places.”
Scott Kushner: Zion said he has a great relationship with Ingram and Ball. "I hope he stays"
Andrew Lopez: Zion says he would want Zo to come back and says "he knows that." "Zo is a grown man so he's going to make a decision that's best for him. Only thing I can say is I hope he stays."
Will Guillory: Lonzo Ball: "I would love to be back (in New Orleans)."
There is plenty of talk around the league linking Ball to the Knicks if he isn’t retained by the Pelicans. So given that the Bulls engaged in trade talks centered around Ball at the deadline, I’d assume they’d re-engage and monitor the situation. But I’d rank the Bulls behind both the Knicks and Pelicans in handicapping where Ball is playing next summer.
Dennis Schroder is also on New York’s radar as it plans for the 2021 offseason. The Knicks spoke to New Orleans about a trade for Lonzo Ball prior to the deadline. Given that, it seems like they will at least consider making an offer to Ball, who will be a restricted free agent.
Earlier in the week, Ian Begley of SNY reported that the New York Knicks have interest in going after Lakers point guard Dennis Schröder in unrestricted free agency this summer. However, it also sounds like he isn’t the only option they’re considering, and they may not be the team to give him the giant offer he’s reportedly seeking. Begley clarified during a recent appearance on SNY (emphasis mine): “As they (the Knicks) look ahead towards free agency, obviously the immediate focus is on this playoff push, but they’re also keeping an eye on the offseason. So Schröder is a guard that some of them like, and Lonzo Ball has some support within the organization, but I don’t think it’s uniform support on Lonzo, or probably Dennis either.
Ball was involved in trade discussions with several teams before last month's trade deadline, with the LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks among the teams showing interest, sources said. Some executives came away from those talks with the belief that Ball might be available in a sign-and-trade in the offseason as a restricted free agent.
The Pelicans have expressed interest in keeping Ball. When extension talks broke down before the season, the front office pointed toward Ingram, who also didn't reach an extension with the Pelicans going into the final year of his rookie contract. He subsequently had a breakout season that led to a Most Improved Player Award and then a maximum contract. The idea was that if Ball likewise had a strong season, the organization would follow suit.
Teams in need of a point guard are preparing for Ball in free agency even with the Pelicans owning matching rights. New Orleans has only $91 million on its books for next season, giving the team cap space and plenty of room under the tax line. But Josh Hart, who has also been proficient playing alongside Williamson, will also be a restricted free agent -- and likely will be a more cost-efficient option than Ball. Attempts to move Eric Bledsoe, who is owed $18 million next year, haven't been successful.
"Unless they can trade Bledsoe, they will probably be hard-pressed to re-sign both Lonzo and Hart," a rival league executive said. "They don't pay the [luxury] tax."
Though the Knicks made a very light push for Ball at the March 25 trade deadline, the Bulls did a lot more of the talking with Pelicans general manager David Griffin. If Ball were to leave, Chicago would be the Knicks’ top competitor, according to sources.
Because of luxury-tax concerns, the feeling around the league is the Pelicans may pass on matching any offer over $20 million per season with rookie lottery-pick point guard Kira Lewis and combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the fold. The Post reported Ball has the Knicks on his radar. His father, LaVar, had hoped Ball’s youngest brother, LaMelo, would be drafted by the Knicks last November — wanting him to play amid the bright lights of New York City.
Oleh Kosel: Brian Windhorst on The Jump says it's unclear if Pelicans can afford to keep Lonzo Ball due to other financial commitments but to watch Knicks, Heat and Raptors. Zo, Schroder & Lowry are "to be the subject of a bidding war amongst the teams that need a point guard this summer."
KC Johnson: On the Lonzo Ball front, Bulls would have to waive Thad Young and/or Tomas Satoransky to prepare offer sheet for him this summer. Sign-and-trade talks also in play. But again: It's clear AKME has targeted upgrading PG as a need.
Despite LaVar’s bold remarks on Los Angeles radio, The Post has learned Lonzo doesn’t feel the same way about being dealt Thursday. The Pelicans have had a disappointing season — 18-24, in 11th place in the West. However, Ball’s preference is to fight for a playoff berth with New Orleans and put his focus on his first free agency, one NBA source said.
The Post reported last week Ball would have the Knicks high on his free-agent radar. As far as putting together a package now for Ball, league sources believes the Knicks would tend to be reluctant knowing they can have Ball for free this summer.
ESPN’s cap guru Bobby Marks told The Post he doubts the Pelicans would match an offer sheet that starts higher than $18 million. The max starting number is $28 million. The Post has learned the Knicks, with plenty of cap room, would be heavily on Ball’s radar as a restricted free agent.
September 26, 2021 | 6:15 am EDT Update
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
When asked directly about Irving’s vaccination status — or his plans to change it — multiple people familiar with his thinking declined to answer directly. But one confidant and family member floated to Rolling Stone the idea of anti-vaxx players skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance… or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.
“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs the seven-time All-Star’s family foundation and is one of the few people in his regular circle of advisors. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”
A spokeswoman for Irving declined to respond to a list of questions regarding his vaccination and playing status, and Irving did not immediately respond to a message from Rolling Stone. But as teams return to pre-season training camps next week, fifty to sixty NBA players have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, league sources tell RS. Most are considered merely reluctant skeptics. Some of the holdouts, however, amount to their own shadow roster of anti-vaxxers mounting a behind-the-scenes resistance to Covid protocols — and the truth.
Isaac considers un-vaxxed players to be vilified and bullied, and he thinks “it’s an injustice” to automatically make heroes out of vaccinated celebrities. He rejects the NBA’s proposal for a vaccine mandate and social distancing for players like him during team travel: “You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests. We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent. “If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Enes Kanter — the veteran center, devout Muslim and outspoken liberal — senses a creep of the religious right upon his workplace, which just happens to involve players like Isaac sweating all over him and yelling in his face: “If a guy’s not getting vaccinated because of his religion, I feel like we are in a time where the religion and science has to go to together,” he tells RS. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious guys — I’m like: ‘It saves people’s lives, so what is more important than that?’”
In their sit-down interview back in August, Durant and Green rehashed the incident and how it ultimately affected KD’s decision to leave the Warriors. Surprisingly, KD claimed it wasn’t the beef itself that pushed him away, but the way Steve Kerr, Bob Myers and the front office handled things. “It wasn’t the argument,” the former Warriors star said. “It was the way that everybody … Steve Kerr acted like it didn’t happen. Bob Myers tried to just discipline you and think that would put a mask over everything. I really felt that was such a big situation for us as a group, the first time we went through something like that. We had to get that s— all out.”