After the Los Angeles Lakers drafted the point guard second overall in 2017 amid incredible hype and pressure, Ball’s purple-and-gold tenure ended abruptly a month ago after just two injury-shortened seasons. However, Ball said he had been expecting and bracing for change to come and is ready for a “fresh start” with Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
“I was kind of excited honestly,” Ball told ESPN of his first reaction to the trade after filming for the PUBG MOBILE Team Up Superstar Showdown event. “I kind of figured someone was going to get moved soon enough. I knew Anthony Davis wanted to come bad. Anytime you can get a guy like that, you are going to have to do what you have to do to get him. So I was kind of already just waiting for it, honestly, and I was happy to go with two guys I am comfortable with in [Brandon Ingram] and [Josh Hart]. I am excited to see what we can do.”
“I tell people when I was a rookie, I probably would have been sad,” he added of being traded. “Just being from L.A., having my whole family here and wanting to be a Laker. But being in the league for two years, knowing it’s a business, as long you get to play, that’s a blessing in itself. I’m excited to get started.”
On Saturday, the Lakers introduced Davis as their latest All-Star big man to join the franchise. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka opened the press conference thanking several people, including Ball, Ingram and Hart.
The trio, along with the draft rights to No. 4 overall pick De’Andre Hunter, two first-round picks, a first-round pick swap and cash were sent to New Orleans in exchange for Davis. The Lakers also sent Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones and a second-round pick to Washington as part of the trade.
The blockbuster deal finally put months of trade speculation surrounding Ball and many of the young Lakers to an end. The constant trade rumors hung over the Lakers’ locker room since January as the team missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
“Yeah, I’ve been hearing my name for two years now,” Ball said of expecting to be traded. “So it didn’t bother me at all. We were all ready for it.”
The Pelicans could be one of the more exciting young up-and-coming teams. Ball, who averaged 9.9 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 47 games last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Jan. 19, can hardly wait to start lobbing passes to New Orleans’ latest first overall pick, Williamson.
“Man, I’ve never seen somebody that size move like him,” Ball said of the hyped rookie out of Duke. “… He’s only 19, right? He’s definitely a freak. I’ve never seen nothing like it.”
“Honestly, you just got to run the lane, set screens and roll,” Ball added of Williamson. “With his game and with him getting a full head of steam, it’s going to be very tough to stop him. So, I think we play fast and get out on the break as soon as possible.”
Ball, 21, has been shooting, jogging and jumping and expects to be cleared for full contact in two weeks. Knee and ankle injuries prevented Ball from playing more than 52 games in any of his first two seasons and showing his full potential with the Lakers. He shot just 38% from the field and 31.5% from behind the arc in his first two seasons.
But before injuring his ankle at Houston, Ball was just hitting his stride and averaging 11.1 points, 7.0 assists and 6.1 rebounds in the month of January.
Ball is eager to help New Orleans surprise people this season.
“Obviously injuries kind of messed up things a little bit,” Ball said of his Lakers tenure. “But you take the bumps with the bruises and keep moving forward. Only been in the league for two years and looking forward to this third year in New Orleans, get a fresh start and show people what I can do.”
“I know New Orleans is excited to have me and I’m excited to get started,” Ball added. “Moving to a new team, a new situation, a new organization, new coaches, new everything — it’s a refresh, getting back to playing basketball how I know I can play.”