LaVar Ball has been quiet lately. A little too quiet.
OK, so that’s not true. He’s been the perfect amount of quiet lately. It’s been wonderful. Maybe he is busy working on his reality show. Or maybe he doesn’t want to lose his other sons’ scholarships at UCLA. Perhaps he’s trying to mitigate some of the damage he’s already done to his oldest son’s endorsement potential. Damage that could also keep Lonzo from ending up in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
We know that’s what LaVar wants. He has said exactly that. He also claims he won’t force it to happen, but what if that’s just another thing he’s said? No matter how surprisingly grounded his kids are, Lavar isn’t. Or at the very least the character he’s playing isn’t. Lavar Ball wants Lonzo Ball in L.A.
The Lakers want to acquire a star this summer. Lonzo isn’t really that yet. He may be someday, but he isn’t now. At least not in the way that Magic Johnson probably thinks of a star. A guy who immediately transforms the Lakers from lottery team to contenders. Jimmy Butler and Paul George fit that bill, but they’re both under contract next season.
If the ping pong balls fall in the most likely order, the Boston Celtics will pick first and likely take Markelle Fultz. The Phoenix Suns have the second-most ping pong balls, but they’re already lousy with point guards. Eric Bledsoe, 27, averaged 21.1 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds last season and is under contract through 2019. Tyler Ulis, who averaged 13.2 points and 7.2 assists after the All-Star Break, is still on a rookie deal through 2020. Brandon Knight is also under contract through the ’19-’20 season but is coming off his least productive season as a pro.
Perhaps the lousy part makes Lonzo Ball more appealing. Or maybe the Ball circus is actually enticing to smaller market teams like Phoenix, Minnesota, Sacramento and Orlando? People will show up to watch Lonzo play and will get fired up about the things LaVar says. But are those cities any way to raise a child brand?
For all the talk about college basketball players leaving after one year in school and NBA fans not knowing who they are … everyone knows Lonzo Ball thanks to his mouthy father. That makes Lonzo a marketer’s dream.
LaVar Ball will drag any of those teams into the daily debate show discussion – even if his son can’t. Devin Booker had to score 70 to get the Suns any attention this year. Alongside Lonzo, Booker could really take off. It’s a young backcourt worth being excited about. Unless you have your heart set on L.A.
[Update/Note: L.A. only has their pick if it lands in the top 3 this season.]
LaVar claims they won’t “force” it to happen, but why not? The Balls wouldn’t be the first people to do so. Archie and Eli Manning thought New York was a better fit than San Diego. Steve Francis wanted nothing to do with the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Maybe that’s why LaVar has been so quiet. In the middle of a complete rebuild, the Lakers have enough distractions to deal with. They don’t need the father of their latest high profile draft pick questioning their every move on Sports Shouting everyday – even if more people are watching Gunsmoke at that hour. It’s still annoying.
Maybe a reserved LaVar Ball is more enticing, but will teams fall for it? All he has to do is keep his fingers crossed and his mouth shut for nine weeks and hope that it works. Otherwise, could the NBA be so lucky as to lose him in a desert?