In his first summer league game with the Charlotte Hornets, LiAngelo Ball demonstrates his fast release and makes an impression.

LAS VEGAS — The chanting from the sold-out Cox Pavilion crowd began early in the first quarter, signaling that the Charlotte Hornets’ Las Vegas Summer League debut would be anything but average.

Certainly not with LaVar Ball in the crowd, beaming with pride and attracting fans eager to take photographs with the father of two current members. LaMelo Ball was also in attendance, sitting courtside with Miles Bridges and coach James Borrego.

LiAngelo Ball was in the spotlight, which he seemed to be all too comfortable with. The excitement around the gym was unmistakable long before he ultimately entered the game in the second quarter. Murmurs could be heard almost every time he got into a shooting rhythm. The amount of interest he drew throughout the summer league is unheard of for an undrafted free agent. Ball, on the other hand, seemed unconcerned about any of it.

“I don’t get too caught up with the crowd and such,” Ball added, “but there’s a fantastic vibe out there.” “I’ll say that. As soon as I walk on the court, I feel the energy. I feel eager, ready to give my best, so it feels cool.” Perhaps, but Ball finished second only to rookie James Bouknight in scoring in the Hornets’ 93-86 loss to Portland, thanks to a torrid shooting stroke from beyond the arc. He scored 16 points in 16 minutes, making 5 of 10 shots and all of them from three-point range. He maintained his rapid release throughout the game, and he even threw in a four-point play late in the game for good measure.

When he was hauled out with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter and the Hornets down 76-73, some boos erupted from those who wanted to see more. The fan base for ‘Gelo,’ a 22-year-old who goes by the stage name ‘Gelo,’ was massive.

With a giggle, Hornets assistant Dutch Gaitley added, “I heard everyone.” “But it was very impressive. I was thrilled for the kid. For everything with his brothers being starting point guards in the NBA, and for him to come out… I’m thrilled for the kid and for him to have this moment right now. Anyone can have one game. Now, let’s see, can you do it again? Because he’s just put himself in the scouting report. They had three (Sacramento) Kings coaches watching an exhibition game.” But I was ecstatic for him,” said Bouknight, who added, “I think he should be out there more.” Every day at practice, I’m with him. We had a conversation. He’s laid-back. He’s a kind guy. He did a good job out there, and he knows what he’s doing. The best thing about him is that he understands his duty and is willing to fulfill it. He’ll compete on defense, and when we get to the ‘O,’ when he gets the ball, he’ll make shots. “I just want to go out and control what I can,” Ball said, “and hopefully get wins for this team and if I make the real team go from there.” Other observations: • Bouknight had some good moments, but he also had a couple of costly miscues in the closing minutes that allowed Portland to pad their lead. That’s how it works in the NBA. It’s impossible to dance with the athletes. You must be capable of making swift decisions. “I thought there were some great opportunities where he did it in the second half, and that’s why we were able to get downhill for some lobs and kick outs,” Bouknight says, looking forward to his on-the-job training session, which he’s been getting steadily since he was drafted. But I’m learning from my mistakes and trying to be more decisive with my moves, passes, and plays that I try to make.” • Here’s a likely-way-too-early assessment of their other first-round pick, Kai Jones: He’s ridiculously athletic and oozing with potential. His 10 points and 10 rebounds were certainly noteworthy. Undoubtedly, he still has a lot of grasp, just as one would expect. It’s incredible that he was able to do that in his first game at his age. Jones had a 3-pointer blocked by Greg Brown III, and when he didn’t hustle to the other end of the floor, Brown caught an easy alley-oop. Gaitley immediately called a timeout and broke it down to Jones so he could understand and correct the error. He didn’t block any shots (against the Trail Blazers), but he had a big impact. And, in transition, I believe his value will soar once we become more comfortable putting the ball inside to our bigs. I believe our guys were unsure about including it. I don’t want to hand it over, for example. But I think his defensive energy and ability to guard the rim and then put rim pressure with his roll and seals is something he’ll be able to accomplish with us if he produces consistently.”


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