Lonzo Ball has sparked attention for his play. He has garnered rave reviews about his passing, scoring and leadership qualities during his lone season at UCLA.
LaVar Ball has sparked attention for his self-promotion. He has launched the Big Baller Brand shoes that cost $495 a pair, has claimed he can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one and has gushed about his son’s greatness.
LaVar Ball also has maintained it’s a foregone conclusion his son will wear a purple and gold uniform. Yet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said the team will conduct more research before making its final decision for the NBA Draft on June 22. That includes the Lakers asking UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar Ball.
“I wouldn’t personally. But yes, somebody in our organization will,” Walton said Friday on “The Dan Patrick Show. “Absolutely.”
Walton chalked up those inquiries as part of the Lakers’ due diligence the Lakers on every prospect. So while Walton has scoured clips the scouting department has put together on each candidate for the Lakers’ No. 2 and No. 28 picks, Walton said the Lakers plan to contact every school about how each player treated people behind the scenes and how they took care of their body in the trainer’s room.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have generally downplayed whether LaVar Ball’s outspokenness could deter them from selecting Lonzo Ball. Instead, they have stressed they will evaluate Lonzo Ball more on his past performances, pre-draft workouts and interviews. But does LaVar Ball worry Walton?
“Not yet. When we get closer to the draft, I;m sure we’ll get a packet of information on every player we’re interested in,” Walton said. “We’ll sit down and discuss it all. But right now, I’m not concerned at all. I’m mostly concerned with which player can help us win more than 26 games the most.”
It sounds like Walton sees Lonzo Ball as capable of fulfilling that description.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Walton said of Lonzo Ball. “I absolutely love his game and the way he passes and the way he makes everyone on his team better. It’s an unbelievable skill and it’s a joy watching him play. Right now on paper, that’s a great fit. But the reality is there are a lot of really really talented kids in this draft. Our scouts are evaluating every one of them.”
One of those players includes Washington guard Markelle Fultz if the Boston Celtics pass on him with the No. 1 pick. The others likely include Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox, Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Duke forward Jayson Tatum.
Walton will have a voice in that process. But he deferred to Johnson and Pelinka, saying “that’s going to be their call.”
“When it comes to coaching, they told me, we’re going to throw suggestions at you, but this is your team. Whatever you feel is best, that’s what we want you doing. It’s going to be the same way with the draft pick,” Walton said. “I’m going to sit in the room and I’m going to tell Rob and Magic who I like, the type of players I want to coach and they’re going to take that into consideration.”
And if they don’t?
“If there is two minutes left on the clock, and they think I want somebody and they want somebody else, that’s their job to make that draft pick. There’s not going to be any argument about it after it,” Walton said. “Once we take whoever we take, we’re all on board with it and that’s where we’re moving. So just like the coaching decisions and final decisions is all me and what I feel is the best for the team, when it comes to drafting, the final say will be theirs and what is best for the team.”
Regardless of Ball’s possible future with the Lakers, it does not sound like it will be best for Walton’s bank account to buy one of the Big Baller Shoes. Walton revealed former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant still gives him free Nike shoes, something he has become accustomed to as the son of former NBA center Bill Walton.
“I don’t think I ever bought any shoes that cost $495,” Walton joked. “You have to remember I was raised by hippies. Clothes and shoes, it was whatever the NBA was giving my dad for free. That’s what we wore growing up.”