First, LaVar Ball announced Monday that if his son had to be traded away from his hometown Lakers, he wanted to see Lonzo land with the Suns, not the Pelicans. Tuesday saw Ball go much further. He not only reiterated his antipathy toward New Orleans but blasted Lakers Coach Luke Walton and also threw shade at his sons’ young teammates and at Davis himself.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans were reported Tuesday to “want no part of the Ball circus,” which could present a major problem for the Lakers, given their desperation to get a deal done before Thursday’s trade deadline. At this point, Los Angeles may well want to rid itself of the Ball family “circus,” but a much more pressing issue has been trying to put together a package that will get New Orleans to part with Davis, its 25-year-old superstar who demanded a trade last week.
After reportedly increasing their offer Tuesday to include essentially all of their young talent, including Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac, plus two first-round picks and the absorption of Solomon Hill’s contract, the Lakers expressed exasperation with what they saw as the Pelicans’ greed.
“They wanted more and more and more,” a source said of the Pelicans to the Los Angeles Times. “There was no more to give. They had cap relief with Hill being in the deal.
“But the more they wanted, the more it became outrageous and unrealistic.”
According to the Times, the Lakers have “pulled out” of Davis talks “and would be moving on,” having “made their best offer.” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers are “still glad to engage with the Pelicans” on a possible trade, but “no longer want to bid against themselves” and are “waiting for Pelicans to make a counterproposal.”
One reason New Orleans might be inclined to ask for the world from Los Angeles or wait until summer to shop Davis again is that, because of NBA rules regarding the contract status of Kyrie Irving, the Celtics have to bide their time until then to offer some of their considerable assets for the 6-10 forward. According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Boston has already encouraged the Pelicans to “wait,” promising “an offer that will make it worth it,” although it may not include young Celtics star Jayson Tatum.
“Boston intends to be relentless in its pursuit of Davis, a player they have eyed as a top trade target for more than a year,” Mannix wrote. He noted, though, that Davis was willing to “cast himself as the villain” by making his trade demand at a time when the Celtics could not enter the bidding, as part of an effort by the forward’s agent, Rich Paul, to “pair Davis with Paul’s top client, LeBron James,” in Los Angeles.
With so much at stake, and time running out before a deadline that could represent the Lakers’ last chance to pry Davis away before Boston, or another team, makes a more compelling offer, the last thing Los Angeles needed was to put out a fire lit by LaVar Ball’s mouth.
Ball went on a Phoenix sports-radio station Tuesday to declare that because the Pelicans already have an accomplished point guard in Jrue Holliday, the Balls “don’t want to go to New Orleans” and “even if my son gets traded to New Orleans, you can’t make him play.”
“We’re not going to New Orleans! I’d rather go somewhere you want to be, because New Orleans ain’t gonna be looking to get all three of my boys. Phoenix!” Ball said (via For the Win), referring to his oft-stated dream of seeing an NBA team employ not only Lonzo Ball but also his two younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo.
On Tuesday, Ball made it sound like his son was already gone from Los Angeles, because he used the past tense to refer to Walton, whom Ball has criticized sharply in the past. “The Lakers gave my boy that losing attitude . . . When he got to the Lakers — Luke Walton was the worst coach ever for Lonzo because he had a losing mentality.”
“If they would’ve [fired Walton] a long time ago, they wouldn’t even be in these trade talks,” Ball said of the Lakers. “They’re trying to trade all these players. They should have gotten rid of Luke a long time ago.”
Ball also claimed that “Lonzo makes everybody better,” telling the radio station, “You don’t even hear of Kuzma if Lonzo don’t make him in the Las Vegas Summer League. You see every time Kuzma plays by himself? Hart, Ingram by himself? They don’t get nothing. They look raggedy.”
As for Davis, Ball described (via Yahoo Sports) the three-time all-NBA first-team player as “good” but “not a winner.”
Turning the Pelicans off Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, could prove disastrous for the Lakers, because New Orleans likely wants at least one player it sees as future franchise centerpiece in any trade package for Davis, and it’s unclear how the team views the other Lakers reported to have been offered.
New Orleans sports anchor Fletcher Mackel citing sources in claiming Tuesday that “many” Pelicans executives “really like Lonzo” and “envision” Ball and Holiday “as an excellent backcourt.” However, he added, “I’m told LaVar has wrecked any chance of Lonzo being part of potential Lakers trade [for Davis]."
If, as Mackel put it, the Pelicans “want no part of the Ball circus,” then they may well opt to wait until the summer to field more offers for Davis. However, Tuesday also presented a major cautionary tale for that approach, with news that Wizards star John Wall ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon and is expected to be out at least 12 months after he has surgery.
That injury reportedly occurred at Wall’s home, but the Pelicans are trying to play it safe with Davis, who has recovered from a finger injury he suffered last month. The team held him out of a game on Monday, despite the fact that he “eagerly wanted to suit up,” according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, and New Orleans is expected to do the same for a contest on Wednesday, its final one before the trade deadline.
The Pelicans “will reevaluate their position on sitting Davis if and when the deadline passes with no deal,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Tuesday, citing league sources.
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