Ball had served as an assistant coach to Vytautas’s Virginijus Seskus in the previous installment of the Big Baller Challenge. With just one game left in the five-game series of exhibition matches against other Lithuanian squads, the outspoken patriarch was allowed to take the reins, and he more than brought the bluster as his team romped, 151-120.
“My first head coaching experience was the same as it’s always been when I coach — I don’t lose!” Ball exclaimed after the game. “I don’t lose, man. I can be a head coach anytime. This is easy for me, trust me.”
Ball’s two youngest sons, 19-year-old LiAngelo and 16-year-old LaMelo (older brother Lonzo is a rookie with the Lakers), combined for 71 points as the latter notched a triple-double with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Getting another showcase, which the Challenge is meant to afford them, the two teenagers combined for 68 of Vytautas’s 121 shots, making 29, albeit while hitting just six of a combined 24 three-point attempts.
In case you were wondering, yes, you read that correctly: In only 40 minutes, Vytautas hoisted up 121 shots, including a mind-numbing 58 from three. Just call the mastermind of the attack “Ball Westhead,” in honor of the former NBA and college coach known for his frenetic, defense-free approach.
Well, except Westhead probably never sent his young men out of the locker room with an exhortation to “whoop that a–,” as Ball did Sunday. That was after telling his team that Vytautas’s strategy against Jonava would be called “Operation Beatdown” and would mostly involve running fast and having fun.
After the triumph, Ball basked in the glory of his coaching brilliance. Asked how he shared the “responsibilities” with Seskus, Vytautas’s usual head coach and a man with whom Ball did not take long to disagree on tactics, he replied, “I told him to go lay down and get himself some milk and cookies, and relax.”
Implying that Seskus had long since lost “the joy of coaching,” Ball told reporters that he would teach the 50-year-old Lithuanian “how to have fun again, playing this game and coaching.” Ball claimed that Seskus “couldn’t believe” Sunday’s result and said, ‘How is LaVar right all the time?’ ”
Crowing about the huge number of shots Vytautas took, which fit his number one key to winning in basketball, Ball said, “We’ve got nothing but Uzis on the team, and everybody’s got a lot of bullets.”
It’s worth noting that the Big Baller Challenge featured lesser competition than Vytautas faces in the Lithuanian League (LKL), where it usually plays and has been struggling. LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball improved to 33 combined points in their second LKL game, from zero in their first, but their father reportedly interrupted a team practice earlier this week to suggest that Seskus play more of an up-tempo style with his sons on the court together more often.
Seskus has been adamant that the Ball brothers need to play better defense if they want more playing time, but of course, that’s only for the league games, which mean something. Given that the Big Baller Challenge was all about catering to the father and his sons — and getting Vytautas some exposure and revenue — it only made sense to ultimately let Ball run the show, and confirm, at least to himself, how “easy” it always comes to him.
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