Josh Hart on Lonzo Ball: “The thing I love about Lonzo is his ability to play-make, his selflessness, his basketball IQ”

New Orleans Pelicans star Josh Hart has spoken about his move to the ‘The Big Easy’ this summer and given his thoughts on his new Pelicans teammates, including first draft pick Zion Williamson. Hart also spoke about his beloved Chelsea FC and how his visit to Stamford Bridge earlier this season fuelled his love for the Blues even more.

Josh Hart on the New Orleans Pelicans…

What are you looking forward to this season?

JH: “I’m looking forward to the Beignets – no I’m just kidding. It’s going to be a fun season, AG has us playing up and down, playing at a very fast pace and we have some of the exciting guys, great high character guys that David Griffin put together and it’s going to be exciting. I think the biggest thing is we want to be exciting but we want to be competitive – I think that’s the biggest thing for us. Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs but at the end of the day we want to be competitive. We want to continue to grow day-by-day, game-by-game and if we do that and keep doing that for this year and the next year I think we’re going to be a power in the Western Conference. But we’ve got to focus on taking it game-by-game.”

Do you know much about New Orleans?

JH: “I don’t know too much about New Orleans as a city, I’ve been trying to learn a little bit more. Obviously now that it’s going to be home, I guess I’m going to be an ‘Orlean’ – I think that’s what they’re called. I’m trying to learn a little bit more, I’ve got the Beignets down, Gumbo I’ve got that down. It has its haunted places but I’m going to try a little more about that. But I’m fully embracing the city and happy to be there, I’m just excited.”

What are you expecting from the fans?

JH: “I’m expecting just loyalty, passion – that’s the biggest thing. Obviously the Saints have been doing an amazing job down there and down south football is definitely a thing down there. The one thing I kind of learnt about New Orleans as a city is that they’re a very welcoming and very passionate fanbase. So the thing we want to do is be competitive, we want to win games and we want to be exciting for the fans. I think if we do that and they’re welcoming and passionate enough to fully embrace us and be one of the best fanbases in the league so it’s kind of what I’m expecting and what I’m hoping. Obviously it’s on the team first and foremost to go out there and compete for every game, but I know if we do that then they’re going to fully embrace us.”

What do you like about Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram’s game?

JH: “Obviously I got traded with Lonzo and BI. It’s always amazing to go a new place with people you already have a good relationship with. The thing I love about Lonzo is his ability to play-make, his selflessness, his basketball IQ – he wants to get everyone involved. He can score, I think he can score better than what people think, what he also thinks for himself. But as a point guard you do love that ability to make your teammates better, I think that’s huge.

“BI there’s not enough you can say about him. Someone who’s going to fit in very well with AG’s scheme, someone who can put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court, someone who’s a slasher but someone who’s very unselfish and who knows if someone’s hot or someone’s having a good game – or he knows it’s not his night, if shots aren’t falling for him he’s going to get everyone else involved. I think the unselfishness for both of those guys is one thing I love the most and that’s why they have the high character that they have. Just their ability to make teammates better and ability to play-make.”

How do you rate Nicolo Melli?

JH: “I haven’t got the chance to play with him yet. I probably will when I get down there at the beginning of September. But it’s someone who I’ve heard about and seen clips of him playing, he’s going to fit very well into our system at New Orleans. He’s someone who can play fast, who can stretch the court and be a knock-down shooter for us. When you can do those kind of things you’re always going to have a spot in the league. Fortunately for us, we were able to pick him up and he’ll definitely flourish in the system and style of play that we’re going to play down in New Orleans so we’re excited to have him I think he’s just as excited to be in New Orleans so it will be good to play with him.”

Josh Hart on the Pelicans’ Rookies…

What are you expecting from Zion?

JH: “Fortunately we were able to get the number one pick in the draft and we were able to pick this guy from Duke. We’re excited to have him, he has so much potential. He’s such a humble guy – I think that’s the best characteristic he can have right now is being humble and not being big-headed. He can continue to grow and grow and grow. So we’re excited with him but we know we’re not putting pressure on him right now, we want him to grow at his pace and not try to be something that he’s not right now. But he’s someone who’s humble, someone who wants to get better and wants to learn, I think that eagerness and that ability to learn on the fly is going to help him a lot in this league and hopefully helps us in New Orleans for a long time.”

What do you find most impressive about Zion’s game?

JH: “His explosiveness is what’s most impressive. Someone who’s mass is that big but his ability to explode, his strength is just crazy and once he is really fully ready to use that and use the huge shoulders that he has, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. That’s something that will definitely help him harness and use at the right time and excel at using those great physical attributes that he has, those are the things I love most about his game- just that explosion and that strength.”

What do you make of the other Rookies’ games?

JH: “The thing I love most about our rooks Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil are their ability to learn on the fly, I think that’s the biggest thing. You saw that with how they played their Summer League, obviously Jax had an amazing Summer League, someone who was very highly efficient, someone who has a great feel for the game and the place where he should be on the court – so that’s something that we’ll benefit from and he’ll benefit from especially being with guys like Jrue and Zo [Lonzo] who are able to pass the ball like no other back court can in the league. So that’s very exciting, especially for him.

“Then Nickeil with just the playmaking ability he has and you saw that in the Summer League. I think it was better than what we all kind of thought and saw him at Virginia Tech, but he was able to come in and just dominate. I think he should’ve got MVP to be frank but his ability to play-make and to make other people around him better is definitely going to help him in this league.”

Josh Hart on football…

What’s the first thing that comes to mind for the word ‘soccer’?

JH: “The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word soccer is Chelsea. That’s my favourite team Chelsea, the Bridge – that’s the biggest thing.”

How big of a Chelsea fan are you?

JH: “So for me I’m a big Chelsea fan, the last several years has been tougher for me to be a huge Chelsea fan just because of the time difference. The games will come on at like 4 or 5am. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blues but I love my sleep also, I need it to perform. But now I’m in New Orleans, the games will come on a little bit earlier and then definitely going to Stamford Bridge and seeing them play in Manchester United and seeing them in a home match about Leicester City – just seeing the passion around them was amazing and just fuelled my love for Chelsea even more.”

Josh Hart’s New Orleans Pelicans feature four times this season on Sky Sports as part of a record 48-games being broadcast at Primetime in Europe.