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Michael Jordan Says LaMelo Ball Has 'Exceeded' Hornets' Expectations as a Rookie

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2021

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball during an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball has impressed nearly everyone over the first few months of his career, even Michael Jordan.

"I think Melo has adjusted to the NBA game better than any of us ever thought this early in his career," the Hall of Famer and Hornets governor told Steve Reed of the Associated Press. "He has exceeded our expectations so far this season."

Ball was the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA draft but is now a top contender for the league's Rookie of the Year award while averaging 15.8 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.

After beginning the season coming off the bench for Charlotte, the guard has especially thrived after becoming a starter with 20.7 points, 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.

He was named the league's Rookie of the Month in January and February.

Beyond the numbers, Ball has turned heads with his ability to create highlights in a variety of ways:

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While scouts have known about Ball's talent since early in his high school career, a slow start in the NBA would not have been surprising.

The 19-year-old skipped college and played just 12 games last year for the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL before a foot injury ended his season. The COVID-19 pandemic then led to a canceled summer league on top of a reduced training camp and preseason.

The transition has been difficult for many rookies this season, but Ball has only gotten better and has the Hornets—who are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 17-18 record—thinking about their first playoff appearance since 2016.

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