Ball, Fultz, Smith Jr. and more making NBA debuts
MIAMI (AP) — If there was one takeaway from Lonzo Ball’s first training camp and preseason, it was this: He doesn’t sound like his dad.
There’s no humility in Ball’s game. The confidence of the Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie point guard is through the roof when he’s on the floor and with a ball in his hand. But when he speaks, when microphones are thrust near his face and the lights of cameras shine in his eyes and reporters pepper him with questions, there’s no bluster or bravado emanating.
Yes, even the most ballyhooed player in this highly regarded NBA rookie class knows that a learning process awaits over the next few months.
“The grind of the season, 82 games, I’ve never played that before,” Ball said. “It is my first year, so I don’t know what really to expect. But I’m going in there with an open mind, ready to learn, ready to get better and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
His dad, LaVar Ball, has made plenty of headlines with his sometimes over-the-top thoughts, plus has faced tons of criticism for things like slapping a $495 price tag on the infamous Big Baller Brand shoe that was released months before his son made his NBA debut. But Lonzo Ball speaks with humility, a calmness that helped convince the Lakers that he indeed was the right pick to be the rebuilding team’s point guard of the present and future.
“I’d like to just play,” Lonzo Ball said.
No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will be part of Philadelphia’s young core that the 76ers hope get them back in the Eastern Conference playoff mix, No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum should be a big part of a Boston team that believes it can compete for a title, and No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr. — an absolute freak of an athlete, even by NBA standards — is already being mentioned as a star of the future in Dallas and a legitimate rookie of the year candidate this season.
They won’t be asked to be great right away. But this rookie class might have as much potential as any in years. Here’s some of what to know from the rookie perspective going into the season:
Don’t expect to see many freshmen on the floor in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game in February.
Here’s the last three rookies to make an All-Star team — Blake Griffin in 2011 (which was his second year in the NBA), Yao Ming in 2002 (after he was a pro in China before coming to the NBA) and Tim Duncan in 1998.