Fresh off the finale of his initial foray into NBA Las Vegas Summer League action, LiAngelo Ball could finally take a step back and reflect on it all.
Ball didn’t start in any of the Charlotte Hornets’ five games, including their 99-74 defeat to Chicago at the Thomas & Mack Center on Monday night. Yet, he was one of the headliners at the league’s annual summer showcase, drawing in large crowds who cheered his every move and chanted for him when he wasn’t in the game.
"It was a good experience," Ball said. "I was able to pick up new things and learn new stuff because I have never done summer league before. It was a good experience overall. I was glad to be here."
Some chuckled when word broke that Ball was going to be on Charlotte's summer league’s roster. There were those who figured the Hornets were simply doing a favor for his younger brother LaMelo, using it as a method of keeping the reigning rookie of the year happy.
Ball quickly put that thought to rest when he netted 16 points in 16 minutes in their first game, canning 5 of 10 attempts. Despite the crowd’s constant urges to let it fly anytime he touched the ball, he played within himself and never seemed to try to do too much.
In the five games, he demonstrated he has a quick release, paired with a thick 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame that allowed him to mix it up in the paint with the occasional post up or keep things alive on the glass.
He entered their matchup with the Bulls averaging 10.5 points through those first four games, but couldn't quite get it going Monday. He connected on 3 of 13 shots, misfiring on all five beyond the 3-point line, and finished with six points.
Overall, he averaged 9.6 points, two rebounds and 1.6 steals in 17.4 minutes off the bench, making 18 of his 48 attempts.
It will be interesting to see what’s the next step for Ball. Did he do enough to land, at worst, an Exhibit 10 deal with the Hornets or another team to bring him into training camp? He believes that's the case.
The answer should be forthcoming within these next few weeks and there will be undoubtedly plenty of people anticipating it.
"I feel like I belong in the league, but I know I can show more than what I did," Ball said. "I'm not satisfied with how I played this last game, but overall it was all right. I can always get better going forward."
Here are four more observations from summer league play:
Kai Jones is oozing with potential
One of the players who generated plenty of buzz was Kai Jones. It’s easy to see now why Hornets fell in love with him and had an agreement in place with New York, acquiring another first-round selection to pluck him off the board even after drafting James Bouknight.
Jones is like a pogo stick, bouncing around with glee. His athleticism is a breath of fresh air for a frontline that's been in dire need of adding someone to run the floor and give LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and the other guards a high-flying option on fastbreaks.
Nearly averaging a double-double at 9.8 points and 9.4 points per game, he threw down some of the event's most ferocious dunks. Many rapidly made the rounds on social media, similar to another young leaper the Hornets have watched blossom in their system -- Miles Bridges.
Jones is still extremely raw, though, and has plenty to learn. He had occasions where he tried to go coast-to-coast after getting a rebound or collecting a pass, often getting caught up in traffic and allowing smaller guards to come swipe at the ball and knock it away for a turnover.
Bouknight is going to bring NYC to CLT
James Bouknight didn’t play in the finale, sitting it out with a sore right foot. But the glimpses seen of the 20-year-old during the team’s 10 days in the desert provided a snippet of his skill set. And, perhaps just as important, his tough-minded mentality.
Or as he puts it, that "New York swag."
Bouknight was the Hornets' leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points per game courtesy of that 23-point effort in the aftermath of his unexpected conversation with owner Michael Jordan. Sure, he has to get used to making plays quicker and not dance with the ball as much, instead understanding when to swinging it.
But with Ball, Rozier and veteran backup Ish Smith taking care of the ball-handling duties once the regular season commences, he's not going to be asked to do as much as he was during summer league. He should be able to play somewhat freer, providing a smoother transition as he slides into his role as a reserve guard.
JT Thor is long ... and intriguing
Due to having to wait until the Mason Plumlee trade became official, JT Thor was able to practice just once with his new teammates before they flew out to Las Vegas. When taking a peak at the team's final stats, however, few would believe it.
Thor's versatility was on full display. Whether it was stepping behind the 3-point line, a rim-rattling dunk, a fadeaway jumper or using his 7-foot-3 wingspan to alter a shot, he left a good first impression.
His imprints are all over the Hornets' leaderboard: second in points per game (10), second in blocks (5), second in blocks (1) and third in steals (1).
Thor could turn out to be another second-round gem found by the Hornets' brass, led by director of player personnel Larry Jordan.
Arnoldas Kulboka's shooting stroke
A moment that stood out: Arnoldas Kulboka nailing a 3-pointer in front of the Sacramento bench, then turning around and talking trash to Kings.
Though it's unlikely, that would be a compelling sight to see in the upcoming regular season. But at least now it theoretically could happen.
After spending the bulk of the past three years playing overseas since getting drafted in 2018 -- save for some summer league appearances -- the 23-year-old Lithuanian signed a two-way deal earlier this month. So, on occasion he may be shuffling between the G League's Greensboro Swarm and the main roster. But it's going to take time.
There are things to like: He averaged 8.2 points in four games and shot 35 percent beyond the arc. He led the Hornets in steals at 1.8 per game and was fifth in average minutes played.
The area Kulboka must still develop is defensively. Better awareness, improved footwork and overall knowledge of the team's defensive philosophies and principles are the things that need further sharpening before he can potentially be counted on to help out on the main roster.