Time Out For Sports: LaMelo Ball Turns Heads, Coach K Speaks Out On Capitol Violence
There's plenty to talk about this week in sports. Charlotte Hornets rookie guard LaMelo Ball set an NBA record, COVID-19 is leading to scheduling problems for college basketball games, and a well-known Carolina Panthers player may not be back next season.
Longtime Charlotte Observer sportswriter Langston Wertz Jr. joins WFAE's "All Things Considered" host, Gwendolyn Glenn, with details.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Although most fans are not able to see the Hornets games due to that complicated cable dispute/blackout, the Hornets won two games this weekend — against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Atlanta Hawks, where Ball really showed up and out. After falling one assist shy of getting a triple-double in his national TV debut against the New Orleans Pelicans, Hornets Rookie Guard LaMelo Ball got it against the Atlanta Hawks the next night: 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. What do you think about his play in these last two games?
Langston Wertz Jr.: It's not just these last two games, it's the entire season. I mean, he's been really consistent. He's 19 years old, and that's the scary thing. He's going to get better. You pair him with Gordon Hayward, I think they're one player away from being a real good player in the East.
Glenn: After these games and LaMelo’s record breaking, do you think he’ll get more playing time?
Wertz: Yeah, I mean, you got to put him in a starting lineup very shortly. You don't want to rush it and you don't want to put too much pressure on LaMelo. But I think his play kind of dictates he's going to have to start in the next week or so.
Glenn: OK, in the midst of NFL wildcard games and playoff prep, team officials with the Carolina Panthers, whose season ended with a 5-11 record, are supposed to have a meeting (Monday) with quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Now, Haskins was released from the Washington football team at the end of December after photos surfaced of him partying without a mask, taking photos with fans and missing the last play of a game. What are your thoughts on this meeting?
Wertz: I think it's interesting, Gwen. I think, you know, you talk about a 23-year-old kid, played 16 games in his career. I think he's 3-10 as a starter. He's thrown for almost 3,000 yards. He's got more interceptions than touchdowns, but he's got a lot of potential. But when Matt Rhule was at Temple, they recruited this kid. So Matt knows him, and I think they probably feel like he could be a really good backup quarterback. And, you know, guys do get second chances in NFL. Hopefully Haskins has learned from his mistakes.
Glenn: Also, Langston, there is talk that Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short may not be back next year. He’s played well when not injured and has been a Pro Bowler, but he will be 32 soon and missed 27 games over the past couple of seasons. But the main thing around his uncertainty seems to be that cutting him could save the team a lot of money.
Wertz: Saves them $9 million if they cut him. The Panthers have cut guys, you know, veterans, before. We saw them cut Greg Olsen, we saw them cut Cam Newton. So they're not afraid to move on from older guys. I mean, here's a guy who's been really good. But, you know, he got banged up in the end. As you said he's missed 27 games of the last couple of years. The best ability in the NFL and the NBA and Major League Baseball — any sport — is availability, and he has not been available. And I would expect him to make that move.
Glenn: Well, in college basketball news, Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski was back to coach a win against Wake Forest this weekend after quarantining when his daughter and granddaughter tested positive for (COVID-19). And in his first interviews, he, of course, talked about basketball, but strongly came out against the President Trump extremists who led the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Mike Krzyzewski (recording): Everyone who’s involved, they should be prosecuted. And our leaders, our politicians who spoke up in support of that, should be chastised. This is not being about a Republican or a Democrat. It's about being a damn American.
Glenn: Are others speaking out as well? College or professional?
Wertz: Yeah, I mean, we've seen a lot of people on Twitter making statements. The players (from) Maryland and Iowa took a knee before the game. The players and coaches from the Bucks and the Pistons took a knee after the opening tip. You know, Krzyzewski's key point was we have to work together and this is not who we are, and I think that's important right now.
Glenn: Also, in ACC college basketball news, the Clemson Tigers officials canceled two games against UNC Chapel Hill and Syracuse. Georgia Tech canceled their game against Pittsburgh. Langston, what do college basketball officials need to do to make the season work during this pandemic?
Wertz: They got to be patient. You know, short of going into a bubble of some sort, which I don't think is really feasible at this point, you're just going to have games missed. So, I think this entire college basketball season, including March Madness, is on notice that everything could be moved, postponed or canceled, and I think there's a strong chance that March Madness may be pushed back.
Glenn: Finally, Langston, you wrote last week about the head coach of Lake Norman Christian men’s basketball team in Huntersville, Mason Padgett, abruptly resigning. What happened?
Wertz: Certainly a surprise that actually drew national headlines, and that's because he coaches Mikey Williams, a five-star, top-three recruit in the class of 2023. The team is 8-2. They played a national schedule. They've been on national television a couple of times. It just kind of came out of the blue. We don't really know the reasons why he resigned. We just know that he resigned in the middle of the season.
Coach Padgett's a young guy — 28 years old. This is his first head coaching job. And that's a tough thing to do, to be a young guy and trying to put together a national team all in one season. And then you get a guy with the reputation and the following of Mikey Williams, that just adds to it.