The reported mutual interest between the Knicks and LaMelo Ball ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft may have some fans skeptical, but one man who has followed Ball closely over the last year feels confident about Ball’s future success in the NBA, especially if it is with the Knicks.
Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams — an analyst for the National Basketball League (Australia), former NBL MVP and New York City streetball legend — has grown from a LaMelo Ball cynic to a LaMelo Ball fan after watching the 19-year-old play in the NBL the last year, and believes that Ball and the Knicks are the perfect match.
“This kid’s got New York written all over him,” Williams told SNY’s Ian Begley. “It wouldn’t be nothing (he couldn’t) handle. He’s always been in the spotlight. He’s famous like a Kardashian, but he actually has talent.”
Williams had the same preconceived notions about Ball as many others – he’s all fluff and his father talks too much.
“I was not a believer,” Williams said. “As a New Yorker, we don’t believe in highlights, we don’t believe in fluff … Prove it to us. If we don’t see it, we don’t believe it.
“And on top of that, I was turned off by LaVar. For me, he talks too much. And it became distasteful. I’m all for parents pushing their kids. … However, at some point, you’ve got to turn the s—t off and let the kids play.”
But Ball quickly turned Williams into a believer, and it did not take long, impressing the former NBL MVP with his performance against the six-time NBL Defensive Player of the Year, Damian Martin, and the Perth Wildcats in a preseason game in September when Ball had 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
“That’s the benchmark for me,” Williams said. “Any import point guard who thinks they're good, all we say is this: let's see what he does against Perth and Damian Martin. They're physical, they play extremely hard and they're picking you up full court…. (But) Damian Martin couldn't do anything with (Ball). They began doubling him, getting the ball out of his hand. Never seen that, ever.
“I said then, that’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. This was (September).”
Ball is projected as a top-three pick in the NBA Draft and he is reportedly the top point guard on the Knicks’ draft board. LaVar, as well as others in Ball’s camp, reportedly prefer the Knicks as his destination, but the Knicks have the sixth-worst record in the NBA, giving them lesser odds in the lottery to secure a top-three pick.
“He’s grown up in [fame]. You ain’t gotta worry about him blowing [money] or losing his f---ing mind,” Williams said. “This is a NBA franchise’s dream.”
As for the critiques about Ball’s outside shooting or defense, Williams said working with Jermaine Jackson, Ball’s mentor and manager, has helped him grow.
“One game, there was defensive lapses early in the season. Even though they won the game, Jermaine had him in the beach in the sandpit working,” Williams said. "He wants to get better (defensively). And I saw him get better."