After LeBron James announced he was joining the Lakers, it was only a matter of time — like nanoseconds — before LaVar Ball, who had been predicting the move for months, weighed in on it. According to the outspoken patriarch, his son Lonzo will not only mesh well with James but make the former Cavaliers superstar “better” — as long as the Los Angeles point guard has the basketball in his hands.
That could be an issue, as James is renowned as one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history, and he can’t make his remarkably precise passes without the ball in his hands. Thus his teammates have to be adept at playing off the ball, or at least willing to accept that role, which was one cause of the eventual desire of another prominent point guard, Kyrie Irving, to be traded away from Cleveland.
Whereas Irving was an established star when James returned to the Cavs in 2014, Ball is coming off a rookie season in which he showed some of the all-around skills that made him the No. 2 overall pick but didn’t exactly take the NBA by storm. Nevertheless, his father scoffed at a recent question about Ball’s ability to thrive off the ball.
“Lonzo ain’t going to play off the ball,” LaVar Ball said in a video posted by Overtime. “How’s LeBron going to play point? Lonzo will be pushing and he’ll get it out of his hands too quick.
According to Ball, all James has “got to do is run the lane and the pass [from Lonzo] is going to be right on the money.” The four-time MVP “ain’t gotta worry about dribbling the ball 42 times, coming down there and making a play. We’re going to play so fast, he’ll throw [James] touchdown passes and he’ll be scoring all day.”
Ball acknowledged that there would be occasions when James initiated the Lakers’ offense, at which point “he’s going to throw the long pass and Lonzo will shoot the three-pointer — very easy.”
It wasn’t always very easy for Lonzo Ball to hit three-point shots last season, as he notched a woeful .305 percentage from beyond the arc while displaying the unorthodox form that had some concerned about whether he could go from a standout at UCLA to one in the pros. In any event, his ability to play well alongside James may not matter if Ball gets traded, a possibility as the Lakers assemble a suitable supporting cast for their newest franchise icon.
Los Angeles has reportedly been in discussions with the Spurs about trading for Kawhi Leonard, but San Antonio is thought by some to be uninterested in Ball, quite possibly because of the circuslike atmosphere his father creates with his brash commentary. However, another scenario could have the Lakers sending Ball to another team for a first-round pick that would then be included in a package for Leonard, with veteran Rajon Rondo, acquired Monday on a one-year deal, taking over at the point in Los Angeles.
That would be a dagger for LaVar Ball, a Los Angeles-area native who reveres the Lakers and had seen an oft-stated prophecy fulfilled when that team drafted his oldest son. In turn, such a trade could potentially be sweet revenge for James, who is among the many basketball luminaries to have clapped back at Ball for some of his edgy pronouncements.
That occurred in March 2017, after Ball had suggested that children of NBA stars such as James would have extra “pressure” to live up their fathers’ greatness, whereas his own underwhelming basketball career allowed him to “take the time to make my boys all that.” James fired back by saying, “Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth, keep my family out of your mouth.”
“This is dad to dad,” James said at the time. “It’s a problem now.”
Perhaps that combination of past unpleasantness and current uncertainty — a Lakers trade of Lonzo Ball “would be the worst move they ever made,” his father said last month — lay behind what sounded very much like LaVar Ball pitching his son to James through Overtime. “Lonzo and him are going to fit together like a glove,” Ball said in the video, adding, “Lonzo makes everybody better, including him.”
“Lonzo’s going to get along with anybody he plays with,” claimed the father. “He’s just got that special gift.”
Of course, Ball couldn’t make his argument without at least some trash talk, so he took a few jabs at Irving while attempting to favorably contrast his son with the five-time all-star, now with the Celtics.
“Lonzo’s not 6-1 or 6-2 like Kyrie. Lonzo’s not ball-dominant, where he’s just dribbling the ball while you’re watching him try to do a crossover and make a layup down the lane,” Ball said. “Anybody would enjoy playing with my boy, it’s always been like that.”
Ball also put James on his “Mount Rushmore” of NBA players, along with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, who is now the Lakers’ president, and Shaquille O’Neal. “All of them were the biggest and strongest at their positions,” Ball explained. “Except for Mike, he was just the most athletic, and then the willpower that he had, to be the greatest of all time.
“Until my boys go ahead and take over all of that,” Ball continued. ” . . . I told my boys from Day 1, ‘Somebody’s gotta be better than Jordan, why not you?’”
Given Ball’s eagerness to get into high-profile feuds, it’s probably worth noting that he named three Lakers but omitted Kobe Bryant, who is considered by many of the team’s fans as the greatest player in its storied history. As for calling Jordan the GOAT, Ball said, “Right now you’ve got to say Michael, until LeBron wins somewhere else, which is at the Lakers. That’s the only way he can surpass Jordan.
“You can’t do it, trying to do it in one spot, in Cleveland or in Miami. Because now the narrative has to be that LeBron has won everywhere that he’s gone. That will make him greater than Jordan, if he can win two or three, somewhere else.”
Some could quibble with the logic of that argument, given that Cleveland and Miami are different places where James has already won titles. In any event, in an interview Tuesday with TMZ Sports, Ball was happy to explain his logic behind claiming that Golden State’s addition of Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins hardly made it “a wrap” for this season’s championship.
“The Warriors can sign Boogie, Prince, Michael Jordan, anybody they want,” he said. “They still ain’t gonna win, with this team right here.
“Lakers with LeBron? You don’t give my son the best player in the game and don’t think he gonna win no championships!”
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