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Ben Golliver and Michael Pina open by wading into the culture wars prompted by the Mavericks’ decision not to play the national anthem before games. Should the anthem be played before sporting events? Why did the NBA step in to mandate that all teams play the anthem? Has the NBA reversed course on social issues since the bubble? From there the guys dig into the growing LaMelo Ball hype. Should the Timberwolves and Warriors regret passing on him? Has Ball already changed the Hornets’ identity? Ben and Michael then build their dream fields for All-Star Weekend events like the slam dunk contest, three-point contest and skills challenge using only projected All-Stars before pondering what “Field Day” from elementary school might look like if NBA players were involved. They close with a discussion of the Mavericks, who are finally back to winning, and the Hawks, whose defense has improved noticeably with Clint Capela.

The following transcript is an excerpt from the Open Floor Podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on SI.com.

Michael Pina: LaMelo Ball is clearly special. He’s clearly going to be a perennial All-Star. In his six starts this season, which are Charlotte's last six games, he’s shooting 48% from behind the three-point line on seven attempts per game. And these aren’t like wide-open spot-ups. A lot of them are pull-ups. A lot of them are contested. He’s just really special and has such confidence in himself. He gets to the rim basically when he wants; he gets to the free throw line. To say nothing about the passing, which is truly must-see television. I wasn’t expecting to watch this much of the Charlotte Hornets ever in my entire life, and now I find myself watching at least two games a week, pretty much because of him. And before I stop my little rant here, I do want to say—Tom Ziller pointed this out on Twitter, I believe—the real winner of all of this is Charlotte Hornets play-by-play announcer Eric Collins. I don’t know if you’ve heard him call a recent LaMelo game, but it is 10-out-of-10 entertainment. I love it; his excitement is my excitement and it’s just a fun experience. And I'm happy for the Charlotte Hornets right now.

Ben Golliver: He’s bringing the Andrés Cantor “gooaaaaal” energy to the LaMelo experience and he understands exactly what fell in his lap and he's running with it. And I think more power to him.

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As this team gets better and does take on LaMelo as its main identity—and I do think that’s coming—I think you’re right on that, he’s pretty much going to be the face of that franchise going forward. There’s going to be the opportunity for a lot of excitement. Their play-by-play voice is capturing all of it. And for a fan base that needs it, by the way. There really hasn’t been a ton to cheer for, for that Hornets franchise, or reasons to tune in like you’re mentioning. And he’s completely flipped that in the span of basically a month and a half.

To one part of John’s email that I really do agree with, is this idea that maybe Tyrese Haliburton is the Rookie of the Year for that first quarter, and that’s who I pick. But I do think LaMelo, now that he’s into that starting role, now that he is really kind of spreading his wings, getting used to it, settling in, people are working in around him and he’s getting comfortable—I do think he’s going to be the runaway winner here. I think John is onto something. It’s going to be very hard to stop just the excitement and the buzz that’s going to be building as he continues to play big minutes. I do think people are slowly catching on like you have, Michael. Like, wait a minute, we have to rethink everything we knew about the Charlotte Hornets. These guys are a different franchise. So that is not easy to do; that’s exactly what you’re trying to get from a top-three pick. This is why I was arguing that the Chicago Bulls should go out and grab LaMelo, because they’ve just had such problems at the point guard position. And I know Coby White is shooting the basketball well and everything else, but I would rather have the LaMelo Ball experience than the Coby White experience. That’s a pretty easy call.

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