76ers

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With the ball in his hands on the Los Angeles Lakers' home court, Lonzo Ball was exactly where he always wanted to be.

Ball's new Lakers workout gear was soaked with sweat after he went through his individual pre-draft workout Wednesday for Magic Johnson and coach Luke Walton at their training complex. The tantalizing UCLA product left no doubt that he hopes his favorite team chooses him with the second overall pick.

"Of course," Ball said. "I want to stay home."

The Lakers have roughly two weeks to decide whether to hitch their franchise rebuilding effort to the 6-foot-6 point guard — and by extension to his outspoken father, LaVar, who didn't attend the workout.

After enduring the worst four-year stretch in franchise history, the Lakers hope to rebound next fall with their new draft choice alongside fellow No. 2 picks D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball is generally considered the front-runner to become the Lakers' new catalyst, with some analysts even believing he surpasses Markelle Fultz and the rest of the draft pool as the prospect with the greatest potential for superstardom.

Ball doesn't shy from the responsibility that would come with his selection, either: He plans to be a leader for his NBA team from his first day on the roster.

"They have a lot of good players," Ball said. "Obviously they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel like I can bring that to the team."

But every NBA team with a top draft pick is clearly weighing Ball's talent against the potential perils of choosing a somewhat unorthodox 19-year-old with a heavily involved parent currently trying to sell $495 basketball shoes online. Lonzo didn't wear Big Baller Brand's ZO2: Prime shoes for his Lakers workout.

Any potential concerns felt by the Lakers haven't filtered through to Ball, who was still excited about his getting-to-know-you dinner in Venice on Tuesday with the Lakers' top brass, including Magic and general manager Rob Pelinka.

"I got positive vibes," Ball said. "I had a lot of fun. It was great meeting everybody here, and they were very welcoming."

He was particularly thrilled to meet Johnson, the Hall of Famer now directing the Lakers' rebuild as their president of basketball operations. The 6-foot-9 former point guard provided the template for Ball's approach to hoops through LaVar, an ardent Magic fan.

"Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players ever to play," Ball said. "And I love the way Coach (Walton) wants to coach us, and then Rob is a great dude, too. So just meeting all them, it was a great blessing."

Ball didn't say whether he will work out for other teams, claiming he'll leave it up to his agent. But his visit with the Lakers was his first individual workout, and LaVar has openly voiced his desire for his son to end up with the hometown team for many months.

After growing up 50 miles away in Chino Hills, Ball spent the last year 20 minutes north of the Lakers' El Segundo training complex in Westwood, where he led the Bruins' transformation from a regular underachiever into a 31-win team.

Ball is an aggressive, creative playmaker who also had one of the most accurate shots in NCAA history last season, albeit with an unorthodox shooting motion that will never be found in a textbook. Ball said he did "a lot of shooting" in his workout with the Lakers, who undoubtedly wanted a look at that release.

Ball's detractors question his defensive acumen and his ability to adapt his unusual shot to the pro game, but few doubt his status as an elite facilitator who could thrive in Walton's up-tempo, Golden State-inspired offense.

Yet the Lakers already have the 6-foot-5 Russell, who has shown flashes of brilliance as the point guard on two bad teams. Walton and the Lakers clearly believe Ball and Russell could share the same backcourt profitably.

Although Ball must wait a bit longer to find out whether his childhood dream will come true, he seemed quietly optimistic about the opportunity after his chance to impress Johnson and Walton in person.

"They said they want me to come in — if I get picked — come in and be a leader and play with a lot of pace," Ball said. "So the stuff they were saying was very positive, and it kind of fits my game."

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

usa-jrue-holiday.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Davis scored 27 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a furious rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.

The Pelicans led by 22 points in the second quarter and were still up by double figures heading into the final period, but the Lakers made a charge despite a poor shooting night from rookie Lonzo Ball.

Reserve Jordan Clarkson had 24 points for the Lakers, but Ball shot just 3 for 13 for eight points. He did have 13 assists and eight rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started and scored 20 points in his first appearance for the Lakers. Rookie Kyle Kuzma also had 20.

E'Twaun Moore, who went 0 for 5 in his last game, added 19 points for the Pelicans (1-2), while Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark each had 14 (see full recap).

Wiggins' heave banks in, leads Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins' 3-pointer from a few steps inside halfcourt banked in as time expired to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 115-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony had hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead before the Timberwolves inbounded to Wiggins, who rushed up the court and got free with help from a crushing pick by Karl-Anthony Towns before pulling up for the winner.

Wiggins scored 27 points and Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota (2-1).

Russell Westbrook scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for the Thunder, who were coming off a loss at Utah on Saturday night. Anthony scored 23 points and Paul George scored 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Steven Adams had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder (see full recap).

Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, Nets beat Hawks
NEW YORK -- Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, DeMarre Carroll had 17 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-104 on Sunday.

Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell each had 16 points to help the Nets improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory.

Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost two in a row to drop to 1-2.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroeder went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:37 left and had to be helped off the court.

Brooklyn found a way to win once again without Jeremy Lin, who was lost for the season on opening night with a knee injury, holding off the Hawks after leading by 16 points late in the third (see full recap).

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

usa-earl-watson-suns-fired.jpg
USA Today Images

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Earl Watson just three games in to the NBA season.

The Suns announced the firing Sunday night after hours of meetings at the team's headquarters.

Assistant coach Jay Triano, a former head coach of the Toronto Raptors, was named interim coach. Triano was an assistant at Portland before coming to Phoenix last year.

Watson was promoted from assistant to interim coach of the Suns after Jeff Hornacek was fired Feb. 1, 2016. The interim tag was removed on April 19 of that year. With an extremely young team, the Suns struggled under Watson. He compiled a 33-85 record. Watson's only full season was 2016-17, when the team went 24-58.

The 38-year-old Watson played collegiately at UCLA and in the NBA for 10 seasons. He often spoke of his long talks with John Wooden, emphasized togetherness and a family atmosphere to nurture the young squad but wins were hard to come by.

And owner Robert Sarver apparently didn't like what he saw. Phoenix is 0-3 and two of the losses were especially ugly. The Suns were blown out 124-76 by the Portland in their season opener Wednesday night, the most one-sided loss in franchise history and the most one-sided season opener for any NBA team.

Phoenix was routed by the Clippers in Los Angeles 130-88 on Saturday night.

"I Dont wanna be here," point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted Sunday, just as the news of Watson's firing surfaced in an ESPN report. The tweet by Bledsoe, a former Clipper, was followed by one from the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan saying "Come back home bro."

Bledsoe has been rumored in possible trades for months.

Watson's dismissal is the first NBA coaching change in well over a year. Hornacek's hiring by the New York Knicks, which was finalized in June 2016, had been the most recent change -- and the irony there is that Watson got the job in Phoenix with 33 games left in the 2015-16 season, after the Suns fired Hornacek.

Watson was the league's second-youngest active coach behind the Lakers' Luke Walton, and the Suns were tied with the Chicago Bulls as having the youngest opening-night roster in the NBA this season.

"I'd like to see the fight be a little bit more," Watson said after the blowout loss to the Clippers. "Or a lot more, until you know they're just fatigued."

The Suns came into this season with only four losses by 40 or more points in franchise history. They've had two in the first three games of this season. Phoenix has not made the playoffs in seven years, the longest drought in the franchise's 49-year history.

Watson was the 17th Suns coach in the franchise's history.

This was the first NBA season where every coach who started one year had the same job to begin the next.