Lonzo Ball is acutely aware of the business of basketball. He was traded by his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers. He's changed agents multiple times, left his family's shoe company and even allegedly been swindled out of a significant sum of money by a close family friend and advisor. Only four years into his NBA career, he understands that the realities of the business can supersede personal desires.
But even in spite of those realities, Ball is optimistic about his future with the New Orleans Pelicans. He will be a restricted free agent this offseason and is hoping that he will be able to return to the team he has played for over the past two seasons. "That's a conversation between me and my agent moving forward. But obviously I would love to be back," Ball told reporters Monday, via ESPN.
"I built a bond here with the coaches and the teammates who are here. I definitely wouldn't mind coming back at all."
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Star teammate Zion Williamson echoed that sentiment. "It'd be dope," Williamson said of a possible Ball return. "Me, Brandon [Ingram] and Zo, the three of us have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back. He knows that.
"But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is Zo is a grown man, so he'll make the decision that's best for him. The only thing I can say is, I hope he stays."
Williamson and Ball have developed strong chemistry. They work particularly well together in transition due to Ball's genius passing and Williamson's incredible athleticism, but Ball's development as a catch-and-shoot threat has made him a strong half-court fit with Zion as well. Ball and Williamson played 1,114 minutes together this season, and outscored opponents by a strong 112 points in those minutes. The two make sense as a long-term pairing.
But the Pelicans are in the lottery yet again, and after paying Ingram the max last offseason, they need to decide whether or not the Ball-Ingram-Williamson core is worth investing in for the long haul. Ball will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Pelicans will have the right to match any offer made to him, but given his improvement as a shooter, those offers are expected to be quite lucrative.
New Orleans will also try to improve upon its 23rd-ranked defense this offseason, and is hampered by expensive contracts given to aging veterans like Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. Navigating all of those competing desires and obstacles will not be easy for the Pelicans. Ball hopes that he's a priority, but in the modern NBA, the Pelicans may simply prefer to pursue different kinds of players to build around Williamson.