For most franchise players coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign, not playing during crunch time would be the ultimate insult.
But during Charlotte's shocking 111-95 win over Brooklyn on Sunday, LaMelo seemed content with riding the bench late into the ball game.
As it turns out, Melo actually benched himself in the fourth quarter, telling his coach to play Ish Smith instead, who finished with 13 points on the night.
On the court, Ball is flashy, exciting, and beaming with potential. But, off the court, his mindset mirrors those of legends from years ago, who held loyalty and hard work in the highest regard.
Ball said he calls Jordan “unc,” as in, “uncle.” It’s not the first time Ball has mentioned this in public, but during our conversation he added: “I feel like everything lines up. I feel like I came here for a reason, he’s the owner for a reason, just everything lined up for real.”
Ball also compared his mindset as a player to those who took the court during Jordan’s dominance in the 80s and 90s as we discussed his accelerated return from a broken wrist. He could have been out of action until the summer, but with the Hornets’ postseason chances fading, he was back from the injury in just five weeks.
“I feel like I still kind of got that mentality that they had back in the day,” Ball said. “Even with the switching teams and stuff, they never used to do that. You go to one team, you stay there.”
Obviously, that type of mindset and leadership is highly encouraging for Hornets fans. If Melo can establish a positive culture in the organization, it could go a long way in making them a true contender.
For now, though, Melo will continue to demonstrate his exceptional leadership abilities one game at a time...