Those were the harsh words of NBA Legend Reggie Miller after LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball-younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers Point Guard Lonzo Ball made their debuts in the Lithuanian League. Following a series of incidents of national and international proportions, LaVar Ball- father of the basketball playing brothers-moved LiAngelo and LaMelo to the Eastern European country to start their professional careers.
This is far from what LaVar promised in the lead up to Lonzo’s second overall pick by the Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft. The outspoken father toothed his horn all three sons will play at University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and get drafted by the Lakers.
That dream will now be achieved via a different route since both players cannot play for a collegiate team anymore after LiAngelo scored 20 points and LiAngelo scored 10 points on their debuts for Vytautas Prienai–Birstonas.
Miller’s words were also connected to LaVar’s rant over Lakers poor run by blaming Coach Luke Walton for the team 16 time Champions last place ranking in the Western Conference standings. His latest statement has irked the league’s coaching hierarchy including Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr and Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle who heads the Coaches Association.
Despite the detour, the plan remains for the younger Ball brothers to play in the NBA. While neither player is on the talent level of Lonzo, Lavar Ball has turned everything he has touched into gold. From creating a successful shoe brand to clinch deals with Facebook for a reality show and Vytautas games, the oldest Ball has what it takes to get them back stateside. That will be difficult considering in recent years, players with bigger potential who took the same route by skipping college have failed to impress in the NBA.
In the early stages of by passing College by jumping straight from high school, proved to be largely a hit as legendary players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James made the jump. Solid players like Jermaine O’Neal, Lou Williams, Tyson Chandler and Rashard Lewis were also drafted into the league via this route. There were misses though as the likes of Darius Miles, Kwame Brown, DeSagna Diop and Eddy Curry proved to be busts at the pro level. Both brothers should be wary of having a similar fate like these guys:
Statistically, Jennings should still be in the NBA. However, the former Milwaukee Bucks Guard is in the China Basketball Association playing for Shanxi Brave Dragons. Prior to his move to the Far East, Jennings averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 assists after getting drafted 10th overall in the 2009 Draft. Jennings skipped College to play a season in Italy with Lottomatica Roma before getting drafted by Milwaukee Bucks.
With the Milwaukee, Jennings was one of the overlooked All Star candidates but got traded to Detroit Pistons due to a contract dispute. His decline started in the Motor City playing alongside non shooters and lane cloggers Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. An Achilles injury didn’t help either and three more moves later he is out of the league.
Democratic Republic of Congo born Point Guard Emmanuel Mudiay was heading to a top American College program before changing his mind to move to Guangdong Southern Tigers in China after high school. His decision to play in the Chinese league mirrored Jennings decision to play professionally after high school. Both men were Point Guards and signed shoe deals with Under Armour before moving to the NBA.
It just might happen Mudiay’s career in the NBA will be short lived as he starts games from Denver Nuggets bench; at best he looks like a capable contributor in a team’s second unit. After Ty Lawson was sacrificed to give him extensive playing time when got into the league, Mudiay sits on the bench as Jamaal Murray and Gary Harris run the show from jump ball. He is averaging 9.4 points and 3.1 assists in 19 minutes this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Rookie Shooting Guard is having a torrid time adjusting to the NBA after skipping College to play a season with Australian side Adelaide 36ers. The 6 foot 7 inch player got picked 21st overall in the 2017 Draft but has struggled so far in his first year. Time is on his side to improve on 2.5 points per game in 26 games.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter