Watching second-year Hornets star LaMelo Ball blossom, at the tender age of 20, as draft classmate James Wiseman has struggled both on the floor with the speed of the NBA game and off the floor with injuries, it’s easy to get caught up in what-might’ve-been thinking for the Warriors. Golden State had the chance to take Ball with the No. 2 pick in 2020, but instead went with Wiseman.
Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, this week blasted Warriors coach Steve Kerr for the fact that a potential pairing of Golden State star Stephen Curry and Ball never came to be.
Ball, speaking on 95.7 The Game’s Morning Roast show, said LaMelo-to-the-Bay was all but ruled out going back to 2018, when Kerr ripped the elder Ball for being a “Kardashian” and scolded the media for giving him attention. Back then, LaVar Ball was making frequent media appearances and touting his eldest son, Lonzo, who was selected No. 2 by the Lakers in that draft.
Here’s what LaVar Ball said, per NBC Sports Bay Area:
I knew that Melo wasn’t going to go to Golden State on the fact that Steve Kerr was the coach. He called me something, a Kardashian of coaching or something. I don’t know what he called me. But I got mad and called him the Milli Vanilli of coaching. So that was not going to work because how are you going to play for a guy that is kind of mad at your dad. So now you go to listen to him and I could see him saying, ‘Hey, I’m your employer don’t listen to what your dad is saying.’ I could see that. And that’s not going to let Melo play. That’s not going to work because now you have to think about your coach and your father.
LaMelo Could Have Run ‘Loose With Those Boys’
The Warriors took Wiseman in hopes that he would develop into the kind of versatile, inside-out threat that would sit Kerr’s system perfectly. After showing some early promise, Wiseman seemed to lose confidence as the season went on and wound up his rookie season averaging 11.5 points in 21.4 minutes. He also averaged 3.1 fouls, an indication of his inexperience on defense.
Ball, meanwhile, was the Rookie of the Year last season and has improved this year, averaging 19.9 points, 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds. He has made strides with his 3-point shot, too, going from 35.2% last year to 41.1% this year.
Ball, like the rest of us, would have been fascinated by LaMelo the Warrior.
“It would have looked awesome,” LaVar said. “As far as the makeup of the team, that would have been awesome. I don’t see the coaching and the father thing — it would get away from basketball. It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, they are talking about basketball.’ They would always be asking questions like, ‘How do you feel about your dad and Steve Kerr?’ Then you get away from basketball. But the team would have been awesome. I have to let you know. He would have been running loose with them boys.”
Warriors Wanted a Big Guy in 2020 Draft
Take Ball’s assertions with a grain of salt, of course. It’s doubtful that the media would have been all that obsessed with the LaVar vs. Kerr storyline—after a week or so, it would have faded—and Ball probably gives himself too much credit as being the reason the Warriors did not choose his son.
Remember, the Warriors were expecting to get guard Klay Thompson back for the 2020-21 season, but he tore his Achilles tendon only the day before the draft and did not have an MRI confirming that injury until the morning of the draft. The Warriors felt they needed a versatile big guy more than another guard.
A year later, that looks like a poor decision. But Wiseman, recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee, is only 20 years old, too, and still has time to develop into the player the Warriors thought he could be. He is expected to return to full practice in the coming weeks and should be playing by the end of the month.