The Charlotte Hornets are building around point guard LaMelo Ball and view him as their franchise centerpiece. If this was ever in doubt, look no further than the maximum five-year, $260 million extension that the Hornets recently gave Ball.
Last season, Ball averaged 23.3 points, 8.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 4.0 threes and 1.3 steals, while shooting 41.1% from the field, 37.6% from three-point range and 83.6% from the free-throw line. However, injuries kept him sidelined for much of the season, as he only appeared in 36 games last year.
Ball said he's now 100% healthy, and he's excited about the future in Charlotte.
“Where we at, I feel like we are all growing together,” Ball told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “I think it’s just a great position and I think we are all going the right way now...
“All my years here, I’ve had a good time. Life wasn’t bad. The basketball aspect, if that’s not really going well, then you want to just live your life and have fun. You want to be living well, and in Charlotte I’m doing that. It all just felt like a great choice."
Ball is grateful for his big payday. He was one of four players from his draft class to earn a max extension this summer, joining Minnesota's Anthony Edwards, Indiana's Tyrese Haliburton and Memphis' Desmond Bane.
“Growing up, my pops always said pressure was finding your next meal, finding where to sleep, stuff like that. I’m pretty much blessed," Ball told the AP. "I just have to worry about playing good. Really no problems. I’m straight.”
The next step for the Hornets is to make the playoffs and eventually become a contender.
“We have not had great success as a team, which is something that will change,” Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak told the AP. “To have a player like him back with us, just to come back to us, it’s exciting...
“I’m not thinking we necessarily have to add more talent. I think the talent we need to get where we want to go is already in the system. Now, it’s just going to take a little time to get everybody up to speed and get to where we want to get to. I don’t think there’s a major area that needs to be addressed.”
Last season, Charlotte went 27-55, which was the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. They won the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, selecting Brandon Miller (likely because he fits better alongside Ball moving forward than No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson would have).