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)