The hands-on direction and instructional guides. The extra assurance.
Those are just some of the things LiAngelo Ball has noticed since he's been hanging around the Charlotte Hornets. During the stints in Oklahoma City and Detroit prior to landing in Charlotte, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Combine that with an opportunity to show off his game to the masses over these next two weeks at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, and Ball couldn't be happier.
“It feels a lot different in a better way,” Ball said following Friday’s practice. ”All the coaches show energy towards me. They are talking to me. They want to see me do good. Everybody is not just … At the other organizations, I was just playing and nobody was really saying anything. So I didn’t really know what was going on. But here everyone is involved, so it makes it more fun to be here and I’m more able to play my hardest.”
Essentially, Ball that's how Ball earned this opportunity. After initially simply hooping at the gym with his brother LaMelo, things began slowly progressing to the point where he began opening some eyes.
He was faring well enough during the team's scrimmage sessions to get the attention of the Hornets' brass. Intrigued by what they were witnessing, they figured it would be good to see if those things could translate in true game action.
"Yeah, (it was) pretty much just working out and being around the facility with Melo," Ball said, "and then coming out here in the summer and working out all summer. So that’s how that came about. But I’m very thankful for it and I’m not taking it for granted. I’m just tying to produce for them and just go my hardest for the team."
Ball had inked a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder's G League affiliate three days before NBA shut down on March 12, 2020 due to the pandemic, never getting a shot to play for them. He signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Detroit in early December, getting waived 12 days later after not appearing in any games following a reported right ankle injury.
Those ordeals were not easy to stomach.
"It was tough for me at OKC because we were getting into the flow of things and that’s right when it hit," Ball said. "So I had to go back home and that like reset everything. So I had to work my way back up to get in Detroit and that didn't work out. So I don’t know. I just control what I can. That's not in my hands. So every time I get the chance to play, I just go my hardest and hopefully it will work out."
In turn, that could give Ball his best chance yet to prove he belongs. Besides simply holding his own against the opposition in summer league, precisely what has to be done on Ball's part to solidify a roster somewhere in the organization is unclear.
So far, though, it sounds like he's on the correct path to slowly building a case.
"He’s doing all the right things," said Hornets assistant Dutch Gaitley, who's coaching the team in summer league. "He’s aggressive offensively, he’s aggressive defensively. He’s physical. That’s what we are asking for. And then when it’s his time to shoot the ball, he’s shooting the ball. Then when it’s his time to swing, he’s going to do that. So (it’s) staying within himself. I’ve talked to the guys a lot about (how) we have multiple guys who are able to go out and get 30. We are not looking for guys that need to go get 30. We are looking for guys that keep the offense moving.
"And if you can buy into that role of making plays for others, and then when the occasional shot does come to you and knocking those down, I think you'll have a great chance to succeed. Now that's going to be on him of buying into our scheme. The main thing we are helping Gelo with is understanding scheme. Playing pickup, he does a great job in that. But now, ‘Hey this is our defensive coverage. We are doing this on this player. How are we locked into that?' And I think that’s the thing we can help him the most with to take that next step."
And that is what's driving Ball. Equipped with 2.5 million Instagram followers and one-third of a million more on Twitter, paired with the groundswell of other supporters who enjoy keeping tabs on his two brothers, he has a mini social media army pulling for him. All looking on with great interest, wondering if he can indeed fully lay roots in the organization.
"It makes me feel good because that's my goal at the end of the day, too," Ball said. "Make the roster and become a successful NBA player. So I’m glad knowing everyone is behind me and just wants to see me succeed."