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LaMelo Ball not scared to play LeBron James for first time

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LaMelo Ball is viewing his first NBA game in his hometown like any other, and he certainly isn’t sweating his first career matchup against LeBron James.

Ball, the midseason frontrunner for league Rookie of the Year honors for the Charlotte Hornets, will face LeBron and the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday night and the Clippers also at Staples Center two nights later.

“I mean, nah. I grew up a little different. Not really on basketball like that. So, not really,” the 19-year-old Ball said Tuesday when asked if he’s excited to face James for the first time. “It will still be cool … but I go to every game with the same approach: going in to try to get a win.”

The Hornets have won seven of their last 10 games and four in a row entering Wednesday’s visit to Denver to move into the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.

Ball, the third-overall pick in the 2020 draft, ranks second to Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards among all NBA rookies in scoring (15.8 points per game), and first in assists (6.3), rebounds (6.0) and steals (1.6).

Ball’s brother Lonzo, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, was James’ teammate with the Lakers in 2018-19 until he was traded to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis blockbuster.

LaMelo Ball will face LeBron James in his hometown of Los Angeles for the first time.
LaMelo Ball will face LeBron James in his hometown of Los Angeles for the first time.
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LaMelo Ball added that his basketball idol growing up in Chino Hills (CA) “was my pops,” referring to his father, LaVar.

Ball’s parents will be unable to attend the Hornets’ games in Los Angeles this week due to California’s restrictions on fans attending indoor events. The state announced on March 5 that a limited number of fans will be permitted to attend only at outdoor venues, such as baseball stadiums, beginning in April.

“Obviously you want your family to come see you, and then growing up, they always watched me, so it would kind of be like going in the past,” LaMelo Ball said, adding he was unaware of the current restrictions. “I mean, I know my people. They’ll be cool watching it on TV, too. We really like chilling at the house, more with the comfortable stuff other than being out. Like, I honestly would rather watch a game at home, chilling, than going to one.”

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