Lonzo Ball and the Lakers looking to recreate Showtime – ESPN
LaVar long ago predicted this night would come. Actually, he long ago predicted his oldest of three boys would be drafted in Markelle Fultz’s spot, the No. 1 slot. But who’s keeping track?
From Manhattan to Brooklyn, from the Grand Hyatt lobby to the floor of the Barclays Center, LaVar led his oversize entourage on a high-voltage trip around the big city while doing nothing to temper his standing as the most polarizing face and voice in basketball, college or pro. And while doing nothing to lighten the alleged load he has planted squarely on his son’s shoulders.
Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball went No. 1 and No. 2 on a wild NBA draft night in Brooklyn.
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But instead of wasting time and energy hating on LaVar and, by extension, on Lonzo, too, fans should remember that the son is not the father, and that the NBA is always best served when a visionary playmaker such as Lonzo walks through its doors.
“I’m truly blessed to be able to play for my hometown,” Lonzo said, “and I can’t wait to get on the court.”
Out in Los Angeles, Lonzo will play a beautiful game for the beautiful people. He will play the game that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played. The game that Jason Kidd and Steve Nash played. The game that LeBron James prefers to play.
Ball movement, with a flair, is the best product the NBA can offer, and Lonzo is selling that product all week. In his one-and-done year at UCLA, while his old man provided running commentary from a bullhorn, Lonzo was the embodiment of every virtue in John Wooden’s cherished pyramid. He delivered more assists in a single season (274) than any Bruin before him, and he allowed T.J. Leaf and Bryce Alford to score more points than he did.
Now the kid gets to learn from Johnson, the one and only. “Obviously he’s the best point guard to ever play,” Lonzo said of the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, “so I’m looking to go in there and just learn from day one.
“There’s never going to be another Magic Johnson, so I’m trying to be myself. But if I can come halfway short of him, you know it’s going to be good.”
Once more, with feeling, the son is not the father. Long before he predicted that Lonzo would lead the Lakers to the playoffs in his rookie year, LaVar said his kid had better athleticism and perimeter aim than Johnson. Lonzo? He said he hopes to be half the player his boss was back in the day.
Truth is, Lonzo is Magic minus three inches in height and minus the electric personality. LaVar might’ve realized early on that his son lacked that Hollywood sizzle and decided to make up for it times fifty.
So be it. People say LaVar is destined to ruin his kid. People said the same thing about Richard Williams when he decided to raise Serena and Venus Williams his way straight out of Compton, instead of the way academy coaches and governing-body elders wanted them raised. At last count, without even tallying up their doubles victories, Serena and Venus won a combined 30 Grand Slam titles.
How many titles will Lonzo win? LaVar said his kid can top Michael Jordan’s six (of course he said that), but it all depends on whether Johnson and his general manager, Rob Pelinka, can recreate Showtime by putting the likes of 2018 free agents James and Paul George around him.
Isiah Thomas, best little man to ever play the game, recently spent a day with Lonzo for NBA TV and came away more impressed with Lonzo’s disposition than his step-back, corkscrew jumper. Given Ball’s even temperament, work ethic and game-day IQ, Thomas saw the UCLA playmaker as the safest pick in the draft.
“This is a real basketball player,” Thomas told ESPN.com. “He’s a pass-first, shoot-second guy, but he can shoot. He’s not a pass-first-because-I-can’t-shoot guy. I’m not saying he’s going to dominate the NBA, but he’s definitely going to help your team win a lot of games.”