At long last, the Lakers’ real opener.
Forget Oct. 26, 2016, the night they upended Houston in the alleged season opener, winning Luke Walton’s debut for the first of their 26 victories. The real opener comes Tuesday, the night of the lottery, when they learn if they get to keep their top three-protected pick … which would also mean holding onto their 2019 first-rounder, which is also likely to be in the lottery.
Insiders like ESPN’s Chad Ford are speculating the Lakers would take UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Indeed, Magic Johnson’s first move as new Lakers boss was a trip to Pauley Pavilion to see Ball, a tall point guard who reminds more people than Magic of Magic.
Said Lorenzo Romar, then the Washington coach, “The last time I saw something like this was Magic Johnson with the Lakers.”
OK, so this is fun for all, but let’s get real: Lonzo is not Magic.
Let’s start with his size, listed as 6-foot-6 but measured at 6-3½ in stocking feet by USA Basketball in 2014. If that’s still plenty tall, there’s Lonzo’s much-critiqued shooting stroke, releasing the ball from the left side of his head, although he made 41 percent from 3-point range while attempting 5.4 per game at UCLA — which compares favorably to Magic, who didn’t even have a jump shot and made only 30 percent of the 1.2 3-point attempts per game he tried in the NBA.
On the other hand, it wasn’t so much a shooter’s game back then and Magic was one of the greatest of the all-time greats. (Personally, I’d rank him as tied for No. 2 with Larry Bird, behind No. 1 Michael Jordan, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell tied at No. 4 and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James tied for No. 6.)
It’s a sound scouting principle to avoid comparing prospects, all of whom have questions they must answer at the next level, to all-time greats who surmounted all obstacles over the years.
Aside from his game, Lonzo comes with the Stage Father from Hell, LaVar Ball, a former college player — however briefly, averaging 2.2 points in his one season at Washington State before transferring — who features himself a marketing genius but is more like Godzilla sitting in on a business meeting.
LaVar’s demands for a $1 billion sneaker contract prompted Nike, Adidas and Under Armour to flee for the exits, leaving Lonzo without a sneaker contract.
Suggesting the companies’ horror, Nike’s amiable George Raveling called LaVar “the worst thing that happened to basketball in 100 years.”
Since Dr. James Naismith only invented basketball at the Springfield, Mass., YMCA 126 years ago, that would make LaVar perhaps the greatest menace the game has ever seen.
At the very least, in a game that has known a lot of eccentrics LaVar has put himself in the running for the greatest wacko. Never out of words, he replied to Raveling on Instagram, “If nothing like this ain’t happened in a hundred years, then guess what? We in a new lane, baby. That Big Baller Brand about to be your competition.”
Big Baller is the company LaVar started to produce Lonzo’s shoe, the ZO2, since no one else would … at $495 a pair … the most expensive the game has ever seen.
The reaction was incredulity or laughter.
Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst, told the New York Times that LaVar might sell 10,000 pairs, which he described as a “rounding error” for Nike which sells 400 million annually, or did before the LaVar Era.
Unfazed as usual, LaVar tweeted, “If you can’t afford ZO2s, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!”
Suggesting just how perilous it can be for one’s mental health to have a rising young star, LaVar told USA Today he could have beaten Michael Jordan, noting, “I would just back him in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or the left. He cannot stop me one-on-one. … He can only make so many shots outside before I make every bucket under the rim.”
Hey, if the Lakers can’t get Lonzo, maybe they should take LaVar!
NBA people have been telling LaVar to zip it up and let his son have the career for months, led, of course, by Charles Barkley. LaVar, being LaVar, noted Barkley hadn’t won a championship and “better stick to eating those doughnuts.”
Replied Charles: “I said to myself I need to go back and Google this guy, because maybe I missed the Ball era when he was dominating and winning championships everywhere else.”
Actually, there was something LaVar could have done to help his son — change his problematic stroke as Del Curry did when Steph was in high school, bringing the ball up from his waist as he had since he was a tyke.
Happily for Lonzo, scouts describe him as a level-headed, unassuming young man or, in other words, nothing like his father. Asked about LaVar at the NBA combine, Magic said the father would have “no effect at all,” on his son’s draft status.
Whether that means Lonzo will be Magic’s Magic remains to be seen … starting with the lottery that will determine if the Lakers keep their 2017 and 2019 picks.
Of course, it would have been ever so much better for the Lakers to tank in April instead of going on a five-game win streak, dropping their chances of drawing a top three pick they can keep from 55% as the second-worst team to 46 percent as third worst.
Magic, who is expected to pursue a trade for Indiana’s Paul George, joked about greeting him with an exaggerated smile if he ran into him to suggest his interest without tampering. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Magic, the new basketball boss, neglected to give one of those smiles to Walton.
Who’s afraid of LaVar Ball? Not the Lakers, who are praying they get the chance to see if Lonzo’s the lucid one in the family.
Read more about Heisler: Lakers pray for shot at Lonzo Ball (and the father that comes with him) This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service
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