The days when the Los Angeles Lakers brought Showtime to an arena near you on a nightly basis are still a ways off.
Still, there is a definite buzz and excitement surrounding this franchise now, and it centers on one player: Lonzo Ball.
Taken with the No. 2 pick in the June NBA draft, Ball comes to the NBA after having played just one season at UCLA, where he averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
But his impact went beyond the numbers.
Ball showed an uncanny knack for doing more than just getting his teammates involved but actually making them better.
It is that intangible that makes him such an ideal fit for a Lakers franchise that has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
And in their last postseason appearance, they were swept by San Antonio in 2013.
As much as the Lakers show clear signs of improving this season, let’s be real.
There’s a clear and undeniable eye by this franchise towards the summer of 2018 when they will be well-positioned to land both LeBron James and Paul George.
Pursuing James is a no-brainer.
The same applies to George, who grew up near Los Angeles and has reportedly indicated a desire to go back and play closer to home with the Lakers.
The Lakers would love that, with that desire to bring George in going a bit too far in the eyes of the NBA, which fined the Lakers $500,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rules.
The league’s internal investigation revealed that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had conversations with George’s agent that, according to the NBA, “constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract.”
Regardless of the fine, the Lakers will certainly pursue both James and George when they hit free agency next summer.
But in the meantime, the Lakers will try and field a team this season that will be more competitive. Their youthful core includes Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle and continues to gain experience and pave the way for the next wave of Showtime.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit); Brook Lopez (Brooklyn).
Key losses: D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn); Nick Young (Golden State).
Rookies of note: Lonzo Ball; Kyle Kuzma.
Expectations: 32-50 (third in the Pacific Division, 12th in the West)
PHILADELPHIA -- Only hours removed from surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibia injury, Gordon Hayward’s agent tells NBC Sports Boston that his client is already attacking the rehab process.
“We expect him to have a full recovery,” agent Mark Bartelstein said via phone Thursday.
That said, Bartelstein also noted that it’s unlikely that the 6-foot-8 forward will return to action this season.
“We don’t have a timetable or anything like that for him,” Bartelstein said. “It’s about getting better, healthier every day.”
The Celtics released a statement Thursday afternoon indicating Hayward underwent successful “bony and ligamentous stabilization surgery for the fracture dislocation of his left ankle.”
Performing the surgery was Drs. Mark Slovenkai and Brian McKeon at New England Baptist Hospital, with Dr. Anthony Schena assisting followed by consultations with Dr. David Porter of Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
Hayward suffered the injury in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday when he was attempting to catch a lob pass from Kyrie Irving.
On the play, Hayward landed awkwardly on his ankle, which contorted in a way where it was clear immediately that he would be out of action for a significant amount of time.
Since the injury, Hayward has received an amazing amount of outpouring of well-wishes and prayers from Kobe Bryant, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and a cast of other current and former athletes. Both Edelman and Gronkowski know all too well about the challenges associated with returning to play after an injury.
"Go into rehab just like you go into anything else: dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you’re 100 percent. He wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t a hard worker.”
And then there are the Celtics fans, whose support has been impressive.
Hayward delivered a pre-recorded message to the fans at the TD Garden that was aired on the Jumbotron high above half court prior to Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Even after the video ended, there was no escaping Hayward’s presence was still very much in the building and on the minds of fans.
At one point in the 108-100 Celtics loss on Wednesday, Boston fans began a “Gor-don Hay-ward!” chant that soon swept its way throughout the TD Garden.
“It has been a bit overwhelming the amount of support that Gordon has received,” Bartelstein said. “It touched him in so many ways. The outpouring he got, certainly all the fans in the arena last night, from players around the league … it meant the world to him. And obviously, going through something like this, it’s devastating. So, to see so many reach out to him, it means the world to him and his family; there’s no doubt about it.”