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Lonzo, LaMelo Ball set to square off for first time ever

Photo: Cassy Athena/Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball and brother LaMelo of the Charlotte Hornets will play against each other for the first time in an organized game.

Lonzo, 23, drafted No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, and younger brother LaMelo, 19, drafted No. 3 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, haven’t shared the court together since they played at Chino Hills high school back in 2015.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lonzo said on Thursday. “This is our first time matching up in a real game. … I think it just shows that all the hard work paid off. We’re really close, we grew up together doing the same thing even though he’s younger than I am.”

The two brothers have talked about their backyard games against each other growing up.

Lonzo said that he was too big to match up with LaMelo one-on-one, but there was a lot of 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 games.

LaMelo has played against bigger players all his life which helped him adjust to the NBA level, as he isn’t afraid of an opponent.

“That’s probably the most competitive basketball I’ve been in — in the backyard, back there fighting, scrapping, falling on concrete, playing hella hard,” LaMelo said on Thursday. “Parents getting scared when their kids go back there. It was a whole lot. Just something you had to witness, for real.”

Neither brother has thought too much about the possibility of guarding one another, instead, both saying they would do whatever their coaches asked of them in order to get the win.

“It’s all love. That’s my brother,” LaMelo said. “We grew up together. You know our pops has us real close. We spent every day together. Pretty much talk to each other all the time now. He’s still my brother at the end of the day.”

Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy knows what it’s like to compete against a brother, as he coached against his younger brother Jeff.

“I know how close my brother and I are,” Stan said. “Competing against my brother is not comfortable because you have 363 days a year where you’re rooting for your brother and hoping for his happiness, but then two nights a year where you’re trying to kick each other’s (butts). So it’s a little different feel. … It is surreal to look over (at the opposing team) in an NBA game and say, ‘God, that’s my brother. We grew up together.’ It’s a phenomenal accomplishment. They [Lonzo and LaMelo] should be proud of themselves and proud of each other.”

Lonzo, whose Pelicans are 4-4, comes into the game averaging 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

LaMelo, whose Hornets are 3-5, comes into the game averaging 11.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

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