We’ve become desensitized to Ball family content, but please follow with me on this one. LiAngelo Ball scored 72 points on Tuesday, just hours after declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft even though he will almost certainly not be selected, and I’m going to show you exactly how LaVar Ball hilariously set it all up so exactly this would happen.
First, the footage:
You probably won’t have time to watch the whole game, or even part of it. If you do, one thing will quickly become clear: Vytautas Prienu, LiAngelo Ball’s team, is playing against teenagers. In fact, even Ball’s teammates look young, including his 16-year-old brother LaMelo. Let me explain how.
LaVar Ball set up this game.
Vytautas Prienu dropped out of the Baltic Basketball League, the lower tier local league they traditional partake in, to host a series of one-off games with lower level teams, called the Big Baller Brand Challenge. It first ran for five games from Jan. 9 to 28 against second tier European teams, and LaVar Ball even served as head coach for the final one.
Next, the team hosted three more matchups in something called the Big Baller Brand International Tournament, and on Tuesday, a Vytautas Prieunu team played a friendly against a squad represented the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. The final score was a 159-116 win for Vytautas.
It appeared Guangdong’s starting point guard was Xu Jie, whose only recorded stats on RealGM come from an under-17 World Cup in 2016, when he averaged 4.5 points on 27 percent shooting. He’s 5’10 and 18 years old, and his skill level appears to match up with the rest of this Guangdong team, which is a far cry from their professional team. (And let me remind you Jimmer Fredette’s a superstar in the actual CBA, so that’s not the highest possible level of competition, either.)
Here’s a photo to drive home the point.
“Their age is a factor, definitely, in this case,” the BallIsLife.com play-by-play announcer said at one point in the fourth quarter about the Guangdong team.
LiAngelo Ball finished with 72 points and 11 rebounds, while LaMelo had 36 points himself. Here are LiAngelo’s highlights, and while he can definitely shoot, you can also see how many of are open dunks and layups, and how Guangdong’s defender simply weren’t equipped to deal with the 19-year-old Ball’s size at 6’5.
The entire purpose was to get LiAngelo exposure.
LiAngelo Ball could have entered the draft at any point over the past or upcoming few weeks, but it’s no surprise that it happened the day that this friendly was scheduled against Guangdong. We know what Ball can do against teenagers, and on the Chino Hills High School team, he won a state championship in 2016.
For most of the game, Vytautas ran a full-court trapping defense featuring the two Ball brothers at the top. It was a porous defense with the specific purpose of forcing live ball turnovers and making it easier for either Ball, especially LiAngelo, leak out for easy buckets on the other end. By the end of the game, it looked like the final run at a YMCA when everyone’s exhausted and has stopped trying. The Ball brothers often didn’t even pass half court to play defense.
If Guangdong scored — they had more than 20 made three-pointers, because Vytautas kept giving them open ones — then the game usually looked like this, with the two Balls back on offense while their teammates were still crossing half court.
If Guangdong missed, Vytautas would quickly advance the ball for situations like this, where LiAngelo found LaMelo for an alley oop in a two-on-one situation.
All that leaking out led to rather hideous defense on the end, as you could probably guess. Here are all five Guangdong players back on offense, but neither Ball brother can even be seen on the screen.
This game started with both teams playing a bit more serious than they are here, but trust me, the second half was a complete sham.
All that matters is that this game will get LiAngelo buzz.
There will be some media outlets who just cover this story by saying, “LiAngelo Ball scored 72 points on the same day he declared for the NBA Draft,” while there’s an even lower bar for this information to spread on social media. You have to hand it to LaVar Ball — it’s a smart move.
LiAngelo is actually playing well for the Vytautas Prienu club team, averaging about 16 points while shooting 45 percent behind the arc. But Vytautas is the worst team in their league, Lithuania’s LKL, and that league was only called the 11th-best non-NBA league by ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla a few seasons ago. It’s a far cry from the top European leagues, and NBA scouts have previously laughed off any notion that he’s a prospect on anyone’s radar.
I suppose this very article helps get LiAngelo Ball’s name out there on his draft declaration day, so in a sense, LaVar Ball is still winning. But it’s worth fact checking what exactly happened, especially for the sites who won’t do that.