LiAngelo Ball News

LiAngelo Ball Joins JBA League to Play for LA Ballers: Right or Wrong Move?

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With the first round of JBA League play completed, the second round was already expected to add more value to an upstart league still finding its way. Then, at 8:00 AM PST, a bombshell was dropped as LiAngelo Ball was announced to be joining the JBA League — playing for the Los Angeles Ballers.

The timing of this was interesting, and left many scratching their heads as to why LiAngelo, fresh off an impressive half season in the LKL, would take his talents to such a young league? The answer has several layers, and I’ll do my best to sift through and help those who are seemingly looking for a ledge to jump off.

While I cannot completely scoff at those cynical of this move — especially being that LiAngelo himself did as well — I can provide some context and thoughts as to why.

As an initial skeptic of the overall talent in this first year, playing in the JBA League was surely a no-go as far as I was concerned. With many players having a ceiling of Division II with the first crop of players rolling in, LiAngelo, who proved he could hang with some of Europe’s best would have done himself zero favors joining the JBA in early June.

However, just like the seasons, things change.

With many teams making roster adjustments and the validity of the league no longer in question, several players with much better talent came knocking at the door, and the JBA League welcomed them in with opened arms.

Players such as former Ole Miss Rebel, Nate Morris, a 6-foot-10 power forward, added size and experience to a struggling Dallas squad. Chicago Ballers’ Deon Lyle, former Conference USA Sixth Player of the Year last season for UTSA, is a 6-foot-5 skilled guard with pro ability.

Not just them, but diamonds in the rough such as Je’Rell Springer of the Seattle Ballers, who is arguably the league’s best player has great size and impeccable length for a point guard in any league.

I can go on and on, but the question again points to LiAngelo. Why was this decision made? Who assisted in the decision? Will this be beneficial to his overall development?

My thoughts are LiAngelo watched closeup and afar just how successful and competitive this league is. While many of these players’ chances of playing higher-level professional basketball may be slim, the added value of new players mixed with the surprising level of the initial crop led LiAngelo to change his mind.

As to LaVar’s input? Detractors will swear on their grave it was LaVar’s and not LiAngelo’s decision. However, they will fail to mention how LiAngelo has marched to the beat of his own drum for quite some time — and his full torso of tattoos — much to the chagrin of his father — more than proves that.

Now, to the nitty gritty. I go back and forth as to how this will ultimately benefit LiAngelo development wise. I was a huge proponent of him going overseas this past January. To learn the ropes of how to be a pro and play in a pro-style system was something LiAngelo needed desperately and it showed early on while playing for BC Vytautas. The up-tempo, wide-open, pressure defense system he’s played his entire life does little to assist defensively in the pros — however…

The NBA has transformed from a methodical, hands-on, rough and rugged, traditional-style brand of basketball, to more of what you see from the Chino Hills 35-0 team orchestrated by Mr. LaVar Ball himself. I’ve long noted how Houston Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni’s system virtually mirrors that of LaVar’s (especially offensively) where quick rebounds and hit-ahead passes lead to quick 3-pointers and where playing fast is a way of life.

Playing this way has led to LiAngelo, and his brothers, gaining a sense of confidence not many players their age have. They feel comfortable shooting from anywhere (literally) on the court at any situation. This was partly — if not most of — the reason LiAngelo was so successful in the LKL. It took him time to mesh with teammates and for his coach to trust him, but when he got his opportunities, he flourished due to this said confidence.

So, will another experiment actually work for LiAngelo?

Let’s see, before I answer that, let’s take a look at how playing overseas benefited him. He played in a very competitive, well-respected European league and showcased his scoring ability by averaging 12.6 PPG as well as 41.5% on 3’s (not to mention he only played 10 minutes the first game and was injured the last game he played). A Los Angeles Lakers scout flew all the way to Lithuania to watch him play and he was able to work out for two NBA teams in the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.

Some more context for the naysayers. The European leagues do not start until later this summer when training camp begins. The G-League Draft won’t take place until October, should this too be an option for LiAngelo. The JBA League season ends August 12th, which allows LiAngelo to play against formidable competition and still have time to prepare for his next stop.

So again, will this work? The jury of course is out, but based on past results, I believe LiAngelo will be just fine. The move is yet again unconventional — but that’s the Big Baller way. Didn’t you know that?

Brandon Williams is the Editor in Chief for Fresh Sports TalkYou can follow him on Twitter @TalkinWithFresh, or “Like” him on Facebook.

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