LaVar Ball

The Lakers are getting what they deserve from LaVar Ball

The Lakers are getting what they deserve from LaVar Ball

The youngest pair of the Ball kids are in Lithuania, taking a stab at pro basketball far from home. Why do I think this has no chance of working out well?

Of course, ESPN has a crew following the Ball family, much to the chagrin of a lot of people. In fact, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr spoke for many Monday about the coverage of Old Man Ball:

“I was thinking about ESPN, and they laid off, I don’t know, 100 people,” Kerr said. “How many people did they lay off over the last year? Well over 100, many of whom were really talented journalists covering the NBA. So, this is not an ESPN judgment, it’s a societal thing more than anything. Where we’re going is we’re going away from covering the game, and we’re going toward just sensationalized news. It’s not even news, really. It’s just complete nonsense. But if you package that irrational nonsense with glitter and some ribbon, people are going to watch.

“So, I talked to people in the media this year. I said, ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ And they say, ‘Well, we don’t want to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership.’ Somewhere, I guess in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing. People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than that he’s become the Kardashian of the NBA or something.”

I tend to agree with Kerr but I also understand that if news outlets, blogs or websites don't give people what they want, they will soon be out of business. And the public is fascinated by the loud-mouthed father and his impact on his talented sons.

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Caught in the crossfire of all of it is Los Angeles Laker Coach Luke Walton, pretty much an innocent bystander. The Lakers had to know what would happen when they drafted this kid -- his father's  meddling behavior was no secret. I think Walton has done a very good job with his young Laker team this season but, of course, the elder Ball has alleged that Walton has lost control of the team and players don't want to play for him.

Yes, a lot of NBA parents would like to blame coaches for the problems their kids are having -- and I'm guessing if they start popping off about it, there will be a microphone in their face, too. But this guy is a rare one in that he doesn't seem to understand the impact his antics are having on his children. And that makes him news whether we like it or not.

The biggest problem in Los Angeles, though -- and the reason people are actually listening to the Old Man -- is that the Lakers themselves set the  bar way too high for their performance this season. I was sitting in the Thomas & Mack Center last summer when the Lakers beat Portland for the summer-league championship and the celebration, in front of a pro-Laker crowd and NBA-TV, was way over the top. And the centerpiece of all that was an overly excited Magic Johnson proclaiming, "The Lakers are back!"

Ugh. No way. It's the freaking summer league. And Magic should have known better. But summer league helped create an unrealistic expectation that Ball was going to be an immediate superstar and that the Lakers were ready to contend for a playoff spot. And when expectations aren't met, people always look for scapegoats. The elder Ball found his -- the coach -- and it's just his way to take the heat off his son, who hasn't had the kind of season the Lakers obviously expected from him.

Fans, searching for who to blame, are ready to latch onto the coaching narrative because they never want to blame players.

And it became Luke Walton's job to try to meet those lofty expectations with a team and a point guard not ready for such a task. He deserves better and I don't blame the media or LaVar Ball. The Lakers set themselves up for this and they did their coach wrong by it.

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's latest attempt to keep his name in the news, the "Junior Basketball Association," is a total non-starter,

But that doesn't mean it's a totally bad idea. I think the concept is one that could work. I just don't think Ball is the one to make it happen. It would take a whole lot of sports-business sense and a ton of money to start this league and I don't think Mr. Ball has either one.

Can you imagine the startup cost of such a league? He wants to play in NBA arenas but I doubt he has any clue what it might cost to rent those venues. He's promising pretty healthy salaries for unproven players and he;s going to have to pay some of that money without a lot of revenue coming in. If he had Nike or Adidas or another major corporation sponsoring the league to help it get off the ground, it would certainly help -- but he's planning to fund the league with his own Big Baller Brand.

And I seriously doubt there's a lot of ready capital in that company right now.

I would say this, though -- there is a place in this country for a league for kids who want to play pro hoops but don't want to attend college. (I've always felt there's a place for such a football league, too.) Spending a few months in college should not be a requirement for playing in the NBA.

Oh, I know -- you can always head off to Europe and play there out of high school -- except most decent European teams aren't going to be taking a chance on spending a foreign-player slot on a high school kid. The run-of-the-mill player has no chance -- even LaBar Ball knows that, after having to place his two sons on a backwoods team in Lithuania where they probably won't even get to play much.

And I don't think the G-League is all that sold on using high-school players. And the G-League has always struggled to make it, even with NBA subsidy. But what a lot of people miss about that league is that it doesn't have big-name players who could put fannies in seats. A high-quality league full of big-time NBA prospects would have a better chance. If the G-League would actively recruit prep players who have no interest in college it would be a big boost to that league. But that's not going to happen.

A league of first-year players has a chance. Oh, it's not ever going to make huge money -- unless it lands a TV contract, which is possible if it can sign up the cream of the crop of NBA-bound players. I think the league actually could land some very good players if it's solidly funded. It makes sense to me for these players to at least have the opportunity to begin a pro career in what would amount to be basketball's version of baseball's rookie leagues.

Players would have no restriction on practice time, the way it is in college right now, and would have a legitimate opportunity to speed their development toward the NBA if the league could sign quality coaching staffs.

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And once a few good players head that way I think there would be a stampede. It would seriously injure college basketball as we know it, but so what? In that case, we could get back to college players who actually want to get a college education. That's not so bad.

But you need the right people (very wealthy ones) putting this together. As you may have noticed, new leagues in any sport have a terrible time succeeding in this country. And I'm pretty sure LaVar Ball isn't the right person to make this one work.

 

 

Lonzo Ball's jump shot seems to prove his dad isn't the "best coach ever"

Lonzo Ball's jump shot seems to prove his dad isn't the "best coach ever"

After watching Lonzo Ball in summer league I was interested to see him in person again last week.

But he was pretty much a no-show against the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard outscored him 32-0, which you know by know. But I'm not here to tear him apart. I think he's going to be a very good NBA player, one who pushes the pace and sees the court. He;s unselfish and is willing to take responsibility for his actions on the court.

But oh my, that jump shot. It appears nobody on the Lakers' staff has touched it since the summer and at some point, I think he's going to have to put in some work on it. There have been plenty of successful NBA players with funky shooting mechanics, but I cannot see how this kid will ever reach his potential with a shot that takes so long to load and is so far from linear that it's always going to be very fragile. You can read Charles Barkley's take on the shot here, with video, and Chuck is correct.

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What amazes me about the way the kid shoots, though, is that he's coming out of the basketball factory of his father, LaVar, the self-proclaimed "best coach ever." This man actually does seem to believe that he has the cheat code to creating basketball players. But when your son hits the NBA with a shot that broken, it certainly reflects on the "coach" who has approved those mechanics -- and is still approving them:

"Oh, ain't nobody tinkering with his shot. He's going to shoot the same way, comfortable, like I said, who cares about his shot," he said.

Lonzo will eventually settle in at a decent percentage if he continues to shoot that way. The good NBA players put in so much work that improvement is inevitable. But until he lines that shot up better, he's not going to ever reach his potential as a shooter or a player. At some point, somebody on the Laker staff is going to have to tell the old man to go sit on the sidelines and shut up while they do some renovation on that jumper.

But do you think that will happen?

 

 

Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

Trail Blazers made right move taking Swanigan over Bell

LAS VEGAS -- The Trail Blazers have moved into the second round of the summer league's tournament and will face top-seeded Toronto tonight at 7 o'clock in what I like to call "The Tourney Nobody Really Cares About Winning."

Unless you win it, of course. Then you can tell your fans that it's a sign their franchise is on the right track.

And that could possibly be true, of course. But winning the title could also just mean that you got a team together quickly and went to either Orlando or Salt Lake City summer leagues before coming here and so your team has spent a lot of time playing together. Or maybe you have four or five players from your regular-season team here. Or perhaps you just had good luck picking up some experienced free agents to play for your summer team. Or even more rare, that you actually care about winning the tournament -- which isn't common.

As you can see, I'm not big on this tournament, which seems to me more of a money grab than anything else. Most teams have already had enough games to get what they want out of this little carnival of turnovers and would prefer to not risk further injury to key players.

But it is a chance to see some of the new players heading into the NBA this season. I haven't had enough opportunity to see them all for a long enough period to make any major judgments but I have a couple of thoughts I'll share:

The first thing I want to talk about is Jordan Bell, because a lot of Ducks fans are already going off the deep end about how Portland should have drafted him instead of Caleb Swanigan. Um, no. I don't think so.

Bell is probably going to be a very nice off-the-bench contributor for the Golden State Warriors. He'll rebound, block a shot or two, hustle all over the floor and he's going to profit from playing in a great system alongside some terrific players who will probably make him look a little better than he is. But after watching both Bell and Swanigan here, it's hard for me to say Bell should have been picked ahead of Swanigan.

Swanigan is the more skilled player. More well-rounded. He can do most of the things Bell can do and also make shots from distance. And he's more than two years younger than Bell -- which means he probably has more room for improvement and a couple of more seasons in his career. He's also bigger than Bell and the one question left with Bell is how he's going to operate against bigger, more experienced players once he reaches the NBA.

Nothing against Bell. I like him. I think he was a very good choice for the Warriors, who will make good use of him. But in terms of eventually being a starting player and major contributor I think most people here would take Swanigan.

More Thoughts From Summer League

I'm anxious to see more of Lonzo Ball. He's such an interesting player and, I think, difficult to assess at this point. Yes, he can pass -- but he's not the clever, tricky sort of passer I expected. He is not flashy to any great degree. And that's not a knock on him. He makes the right reads and delivers the ball appropriately.

But he also seems just a little slower than I expected. It will be interesting to see what tempo the Lakers will play with him at the helm. And yes, his shooting form is terrible. His old man, LaVar, seems to act as if he's created the perfect player in Lonzo but I can't believe that's the best he could do with the the kid's shooting mechanics. It is more of a set shot than a jumper and takes a little while for him to load.

That said, he seems to have the "it" factor they love in LA. He's got a star quality about him. And it's going to be fun to see if he can make good on all the expectations the Lakers have for him.

And maybe he will even add a summer-league championship ring to his resume. As if there is such a thing.

I'm not certain that every NBA franchise wants to have to listen to Old Man Ball

I'm not certain that every NBA franchise wants to have to listen to Old Man Ball

I'm not sure whether we should laugh or cry at all the preposterous stuff LaVar Ball is saying about his basketball-playing sons -- and even himself.

Here's a compilation of some of the things Old Man Ball has said recently and you can make your own decision about which is the most ridiculous. For me, it was the latest remark:

“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one."

How in the world am I supposed to buy into all the wonderful things he says about his basketball-playing sons when the man makes a stupid statement like that one? He played one season of basketball at Washington State and averaged 2.2 points per game. There is delusional and there is DELUSIONAL. LaVar is the latter. And it's obviously not confined to his own basketball talents.

This man once famously said his son Lonzo is better than Steph Curry:

“I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing. He’s better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.”

Here's the thing about that: Even if his kid IS better than Curry, what's the point in saying it? Why put that pressure on his oldest son? If he's that good, he'll prove it.

People tell me that the dad's plan is to make sure his kids get attention through his remarks. But come on, they are going to get plenty of attention if they're as good as he says they are. And I'm not sure any teenager needs to hear all this stuff. To me, it's all about getting some attention for himself.

You can look back at parents/coaches like Richard Williams and Earl Woods and say that Ball's kids have a chance to be every bit as good as their dad says they will. Or you can look back at the sad story of Todd Marinovich and his father, Marv, and shake your head.

But there are unintended consequences to all the attention the daddy is getting. Basketball is a team sport, unlike tennis and golf, and these kids have to fit into a team. A franchise, even. I am hearing there are some NBA teams that are worrying about what kind of a problem LaVar would cause if they draft Lonzo. What I'm hearing is that if the kid is judged to be about the same ability as another player, the other player is more likely to be drafted first because of the possible pain in the backside the elder Ball could turn out to be.

You don't want this guy in the ear of the media if his son doesn't get to play as many minutes as LaVar thinks he should. Or he doesn't start right away. Or... whatever. NBA coaches have enough problems without this guy yelling at them to use his son in a different manner, get him more shots, etc. The father makes a lot of noise and I'm not sure coaches and general managers in the league want to put up with it.

And over time, I'm not sure what it's going to be like for young Lonzo to try to live up to his father's lofty and very public expectations. As good as Steph Curry? Well, if he falls a little short of performing like a two-time MVP will he be a failure? Probably not to you or me... but to his father?

It's going to be very entertaining to see this story play out over the next three or four seasons, as sons No. 2 and 3 show up at UCLA and then, the NBA. And at some point we'll find out the truth about that old NBA truism, "Ball don't lie."