LaVar Ball’s dream of seeing his sons unite to lead the Los Angeles Lakers back to glory ended Saturday evening with news that his eldest, Lonzo Ball, was part of a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The often outspoken and controversial LaVar, who was with two of his sons watching a third play in a Drew League game in L.A. when news of the trade broke, had a dire prediction for the Lakers, who went all in to acquire Anthony Davis after coveting him for months.
“I guarantee: Like I say again, it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “Guarantee it.
“They’re going to regret it. I’m going to have fun with it. Because I told you all, it was crashing down. Now [the Lakers] completely crashed, but at least my son got off the boat before the thing exploded. I gave them a chance. You can rewind it and go back. I said if you get the three Ball brothers, you can survive this. You let him go, oh, it’s going to be a cold day in hell. Trust and believe that.”
Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball were with their dad watching LaMelo Ball’s game when the Lakers finalized the deal to send Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks (including the No. 4 overall pick Thursday night) to New Orleans for Davis.
Lonzo was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft and was so highly regarded as the future of the Lakers that Magic Johnson, then the president of basketball operations, traded away D’Angelo Russell, another No. 2 overall pick. The move didn’t pan out as Johnson had hoped; Lonzo Ball played 52 and 47 games in his two seasons, averaging 10 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds. His second season, which was dotted by trade rumors, ended prematurely with an ankle injury.
“Lonzo don’t care about no trade,” LaVar told ESPN. “He just wants to play. So his main thing is, ‘As long as my foot keeps getting better, I’ll play for anybody.’”
The future for the Lakers lies with LeBron James and now with Davis, with Johnson and former coach Luke Walton gone, along with LaVar Ball’s much-hyped dream of a Big Baller Brand era in L.A.
“What do I think went wrong? I know what went wrong,” LaVar told ESPN. “The coaching was the beginning. When I didn’t see [Walton] believe in Lonzo and start taking him out after five or six minutes and put him back in and not starting the fourth quarter, he ain’t never played like that. . . . Now you don’t let him win. You get these raggedy-a-- trainers who got him training with these rubber bands — guess what, you’re going to get hurt.”
The Lakers appear to have given up a massive haul to acquire Davis. Meanwhile, Lonzo joins a team that will presumably make Duke’s Zion Williamson the No. 1 pick Thursday night, and that also has the aforementioned No. 4 pick. LaVar Ball appears characteristically confident on how Lonzo will fare in the Big Easy.
“Lonzo could be with Sara Lee, and she gonna be good,” LaVar said in the ESPN interview. “Lonzo with anybody. Lonzo going to groom him, letting him know that when you get open, you’re going to get the ball. He’s going to make him so much better than what everybody’s thinking. So everybody doubting him and saying, ‘You know what? You don’t have these post moves. You’re not polished, just a good runner and athletic,’ Lonzo will fine-tune him.”
LaVar Ball had a dire prediction for Davis, too.
“He can’t shoot the ball. Uh oh. He can’t shoot free throws. His body is going to wear down. That’s just what this game is about. As you get older, it’s harder to do that,” he said, via 1550 Sports. “The expectations, too? In L.A.? It’s a bit different. What I mean by that: A.D., ain’t nobody on you in New Orleans. There ain’t no red carpet out there. But I tell you what: In L.A., it can go from sugar to s--- real quick.”
If he sounds a little bitter, perhaps it’s because he had such grand hopes that his sons would star together for their hometown team. He had envisioned that LiAngelo would be drafted two years ago, only intending for him to stay in college at UCLA for one year. But LiAngelo was always more of a project than Lonzo — and that was before a shoplifting incident in China in November 2017. He ended up dropping out of UCLA after that and has since played in Lithuania and in the Junior Basketball Association. LaMelo, who turns 18 next month, was a star player, like his brothers, at Chino Hills High School before moving to SPIRE Institute in Ohio.
So Saturday’s trade spoiled what was once LaVar Ball’s stated goal.
“The grand plan stays the same. All these boys are going to be on the Lakers,” he said of his three sons in December 2017. “Watch how I do this. People are going to look up and say, ‘Wow. How did they all get on the Lakers?’ I ain’t got no fallback plan because if I got a fallback plan, that means I’m going 80 percent this way and 20 percent to my fallback. I’m 100 in. So I never get stopped.”
"I don’t care where Lonzo plays,” LaVar told ESPN. “I want him to play. And it is better to go somewhere where you can just play and do your thing and be that guy instead of having all these question marks behind you.
“And once you don’t believe in him, it is kind of hard to come back and be like, ‘Oh, we believe in him now because now we don’t know if you’re true or not.’ You had the first chance to believe in him and you didn’t, so guess what, it’s time to go.”
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