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Pelicans Not Concerned About Lonzo Ball Despite Disappointing Bubble Performance – Sports Illustrated

August 11, 2020

Every weekday, SI’s Chris Mannix will check-in with his Bubble Bits, a quick hit on something notable from inside the NBA’s campus

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Lonzo Ball was frustrated. Twitter, as it so often does, provided an outlet. After a disappointing five-point performance in New Orleans’ loss to San Antonio—a loss that eliminated the Pelicans from the playoffs—Ball spotted a tweet from Bleacher Report pointing out his unsatisfying numbers.

Ball’s response: Make sure y’all post my shit next year too.

Ball’s bubble performance was disappointing, but the Pelicans have to be pleased with what they have in the 22-year old guard. In his first season in New Orleans, Ball has posted career highs in scoring (11.7 points) and three-point percentage (37%). His jump shot—tinkered with by Pelicans coaches before the start of the season—looked stronger as the year progressed. Ball connected on 38.2% of his threes in February and drilled 51.2% of them in the first five games in March.

Ball chalked up his struggles as a rhythm issue. “That’s it,” Ball said. “I was grinding every day in New Orleans.” That he was among the reasons New Orleans—a trendy pick to make at least the play-in series before the restart—is packing up sticks with him the most.

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“I feel like I let the team down,” Ball said. “I’m a big part of it. Usually when I play well we win. We’re going home early, and I’ve got to live with that.”

Still: The Pelicans will enter next season as a playoff favorite, with Ball running the show. Zion Williamson will (hopefully) be injury free, Brandon Ingram, an All-Star and a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player, is an emerging star while Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick will return as veteran presences in the backcourt.

Said Ball, “I think we showed when we are a healthy team, we can compete with anybody.”

The Pelicans don’t seem overly concerned about Ball, either.

“I’m not worried about ‘Zo,” said Alvin Gentry. “I know he’s going to be fine. I know he’s going to be OK. I know it’s frustrating for him. Everyone wanted to come down here and play well. It just didn’t work out that way in some situations. I think the effort was there. He’s disappointed, but I don’t think it’s anything I would spend anytime worried about because I think he’s going to be fine.”

After two tumultuous seasons in Los Angeles, Ball says he enjoyed his first season in New Orleans—and is ready for the next one.

“Overall, I think it was a positive experience,” Ball said. “I’m definitely looking forward to next year. I don’t think the whole season should be put on the bubble. Look at the whole year. We made a lot of growth … I’m proud of that.”

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