2017-06-07 / Sports

Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Lonzo

I assume most everyone who follows sports in general and college basketball in particular has heard of Lonzo Ball, who was the freshman point guard at UCLA last season and is expected to be the second pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA draft two weeks from now. Of course if you’ve heard of Lonzo, you’ve no doubt heard of his father, LaVar Ball, the outspoken person in Lonzo’s life who has turned his son’s basketball career into his own traveling media circus.

It was the middle of February last season when the elder Ball said, “I’ll tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me.”

If it was LaVar’s intention to increase the general public’s awareness of his son, mission accomplished. Playing on the west coast had kept Lonzo mostly off my personal radar. There was name recognition, but I couldn’t actually recall watching him play at that time. After LaVar’s claim I went out of my way to see what he was talking about.

I saw a very nice basketball player with great skills across the board. Here was a 6-6 point guard who could score 14.6 points a game, grab six rebounds a game and perhaps most impressive was his 7.6 assist average. It was his passing skills that were most impressive to me at the outset. He only turned the ball over at a 2.5 per game clip playing just over 35 minutes a game. The kid was so smooth it didn’t look like he was even trying.

The point is Lonzo Ball was already a known commodity among NBA scouts and was destined to become a first round pick regardless of anything his father said. It’s now gotten to the point that LaVar’s penchant for making outlandish statements may cost his son his coveted spot on the Lakers roster. Two weeks before the draft reports have surfaced the Lakers are rethinking selecting Ball because of the sideshow that comes with him, LaVar Ball.

Also in February, LaVar stated that, “My son will only play for the Lakers.” This is one of the few, maybe the only statement, he’s backed off of. In March he fired back to Charles Barkley, who had heavily criticized LaVar for his outlandish comments (pot meet kettle), “If Charles thought like me, maybe he’d win a championship.”

LaVar has two younger sons LiAngelo and LaMelo and the elder Ball has high aspirations for them as well. “All three of my sons are going to be one and done.” Both sons are highly regarded college prospects, but the consensus is that it will be a long shot for the younger Balls to realize their Dad’s goal.

Three sons, ages 19 and under, and LaVar is trying to market them for endorsements for a billion dollars. “A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.” Are you getting a picture here?

So far Lonzo has deflected most of the inquiries about his father fairly well. “My dad’s a funny guy. People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Are you embarrassed? Your dad said you’re going to win the championship.’ No, I’m not embarrassed. I know how he’s going to act. I just go out there and play. Let him be him.” Said the younger ball.

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