“Lavar Ball Lonzo Ball” from Andrew D. Bernstein of Getty Images
Lonzo keeps his words mechanically short, knowing his dad made a brash prediction or statement in the days prior.
“I just play basketball.”
Lonzo wilts in his father’s shadow, whose personality regularly towers over his three sons. That narrative has endured through an epoch of Lonzo’s short-lived NBA career.
Lavar Ball prophecized that his eldest son would be a Laker. He even stated that the Lakers would grace the playoffs with Lonzo in the driver’s seat as a rookie. The latter did not ring true as the team staggered 12 games behind the 8 seed. Lavar’s outspokenness has eminently deprived the trade value of the former UCLA star. The Lakers seemingly value a collection of; Ingram, Kuzma, Josh Hart, and first-round picks over Ball.
Recent days has shined a 100-watt incandescent light bulb on Lonzo Ball. First, the elder Ball brother tore his meniscus. Then, he did not appear on the Lakers’ Summer League Roster.
Lonzo was once the prince of a Lakers rebuild. Before they secured Lebron and grabbed Rondo, Ball was the answer to Los Angeles’ playoff problem. Magic Johnson even referred to Lonzo as the face of the most recognizable sports franchise in the world. Ultimately, the fundamental Lonzo rhetoric has taken a 360-degree turn since he was drafted second overall.
Although, Zo is not in uncharted waters. The illumination of the public eye has perpetually shined bright on him. From Big Baller Brand to Lavar Ball’s rants, to the infamous Ball in the Family, Lonzo’s life is a Shakespearean performance. A performance the Lakers management have grown weary of. They now to seek to rid of Ball by way of trade. It won’t be a facile endeavor for either side.
Lately, the Spurs have confirmed their disinterest in Lonzo. Their disinterest may stem from a pulsating headache that the Ball family circus creates. On the other hand, the Spurs could view the pairing of two raw point guards together an inconvenience. Even so, the Lakers are shooting for a third team to involve in the complicated Kawhi trade.
The third team would presumably take on Luol Deng (and his hefty contract) along with the young point guard. On the other hand, Lonzo could be traded for a win-now point guard that more closely aligns with Lebron’s age and playing style. Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker are rumored to don the Purple and Gold. Strap in because this will be an unpleasant and bumpy ride.
Lonzo Ball would be an ample addition to the young core in Orlando. The Magic have represented anything but their namesake in recent drafts. Orlando shot and missed on Elfrid Payton, thus settling on Shelvin Mack and D.J. Augustin. They chose Jonathan Isaac and then turned around and drafted Mo Bamba. This means Aaron Gordon will inevitably slide down to the 3, where he struggled last season. For the team to succeed, they have to go outside of their bubble and vie for an outstanding floor general.
Aaron Gordon churned out double-doubles like he was born to do it this past season. In his contract year, Gordon averaged 17.6 points 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. His standout season paled by comparison to his first three seasons. The Former Arizona Wildcat produced just 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds before his jailbreak season. Gordon was a diamond in the rough, seriously outpacing expectations.
While Gordon vastly ameliorated his game, he did not particularly sway from his strengths. He still was a pogo stick inside, finishing 72% of shots at point-blank range. Gordon, though, outgrew a label many seemed to slap on him right when he escaped the college ranks.
When ownership decided to clean the management cupboard, Aaron Gordon settled on one thought. He was used to change.
“It was part of the business. It’s our fifth coach in five years. So I knew the coach changes,” Gordon told reporters in an exit interview.
When speaking about his coach, Frank Vogel, Gordon talked in a dog-tired tone, unforgiving of management that seemed to jump ship at every harsh wave. “It’s too bad I was just getting comfortable with him. You really know somebody after a year, two years and then you get comfortable with them,” Gordon noted.
Despite a new coach, Aaron remains positive and hopeful for what lies ahead. A selfless point guard could be exactly what he needs for a career reboot. Gordon, who has jump-out of the gym ability, is an alley-oop machine. He just needs someone to lob it to him.
The Suns and Lonzo Ball have a magnetic pull. Lonzo, a defensive stalwart, could make up for Devin Booker’s poor play on that end. At times, Booker seems unwilling to get around or screens or even slide his feet.
In addition, Booker’s 3-point prowess would theoretically neutralize Ball’s shooting inconsistencies. Booker has shot 36.5% on over 1000 attempts since entering the league.
In today’s league, every star point guard has their Robin at shooting guard. Whether it be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, John Wall and Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown, or Jordan Clarkson and J.R. Smith (vomit emoji).
In Phoenix, the point guard position has been erratic and unstable, with players alternating akin to a hectic game of musical chairs. The Suns starting lineup is young; Booker is 21, Josh Jackson is 21, Marquese Chriss is 21, and Deandre Ayton is 19. Not to mention, Dragan Bender is 20 and rookie Mikal Bridges is only a year older.
“NBA Draft 2017: Top 3 Best Destinations For Lonzo Ball” by Alonzo Warond of Fadeaway World published in More Than Points
However, recent moves by the Suns are somewhat perplexing. Releasing Devin Booker’s best friend, Tyler Ulis, is not what angered the former. The miscommunication entailed in such a move exasperated and vexed Booker, who played with Ulis at Kentucky.
An ambiguous misunderstanding between a player and management is potentially detrimental to both sides. Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving are an explicit paradigm to the collapse of player-management collaboration. Warning signs subsist and Suns’ management would certainly benefit in recognizing them.
So if Booker demands the Suns go after a star point guard, trading for Ball might be a simplistic and rewarding route. With Booker locked up for the next five years, Ball and the former Kentucky guard could make for a youthful symmetry.
“Giannis Lonzo” by Dylan Buell licensed by Getty Images
Just like playing next to Lebron, Lonzo could thrive next to a ball-dominant forward.
While Giannis experimented at point guard under the Jason Kidd regime, the Bucks could use a true point guard to alleviate pressure off their centerpiece. After all, Giannis is an ideal fit for the small-ball point forward position and could even be utilized as a small-ball center in select lineups.
That’s what makes Lonzo in a Milwaukee jersey so appealing. Their roster is constructed with a variety of secondary ball-handlers and secondary passers. Eric Bledsoe is not a true point guard and is hunting for his own shot more often than looking to make a crisp pass to a teammate. Malcolm Brogdon, whose rookie of the year is almost completely forgotten, is a smaller shooting guard who can make the right decision but not a skillful pass. Khris Middleton is a really good defender and had a career year, but does not contain good enough handles to initiate an offense.
A player who does not demand the ball is the copybook to a championship team. Kobe had Derek Fisher, Jordan had Steve Kerr/John Paxson, Lebron had Mario Chalmers, Dirk had Jason Kidd. Especially a championship team with a player who needs the ball in his hands. Giannis had a 31.4% usage rate (5th for qualifying players) and frontcourt touches placed 6th in the NBA.
Adding a pass-first point guard who assuages the pressure off Milwaukee’s scorers is the cut and dried answer to a perplexing problem. Let’s just hope he’s nothing like Michael-Carter Williams.
With Dwight Howard being unloaded for a dime on the dollar and Kemba Walker being made available, Charlotte is in phase one of rebuild mode. The beginning of Charlotte’s renovation could involve Lonzo Ball. What better way to start? Washington did in 2010 by drafting John Wall. Cleveland did the same by choosing Kyrie number one overall in the following draft. Portland drafted Damian Lillard 6 overall and restructured their roster. By getting the epitome of a pass-first guard, Charlotte will elevate their roster, made up of players who have yet to fulfill their potential.
First, it was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Then it was Cody Zeller. Next, they made the ill-advised move to pick Frank Kaminsky when Boston offered reams of draft picks to move and select Justise Winslow. Every time, they failed to fathom the caliber of the situation and the pronounced itinerary of the league.
Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken jump shot (perhaps more broken than Lonzo’s) and is one-dimensional. The one decisive part of his game is his ability to defend wings and forwards at a blue-chip level. With him on the court, Charlotte is tremendously better and fear in the opponent’s eyes discernibly heightens. In 2017-18, the team was 11.2 points better with MKG on the court.
Zeller is a player that whose potential has stagnated. While he can defend and rim-run, there is nothing about his game that sells tickets. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, Zeller is a solid role-player who makes the Hornets a better team when he is on the court. Coming out of Indiana, The Big Handsome was compared favorably to LaMarcus Aldridge. He was a back to the basket big man with an array of skill moves that closely represented a nimble guard more than a plodding center. Nonetheless, he has been injury prone and largely desirory.
And that’s the major issue with how the Hornets have shaped their roster. The mold is deteriorating because it was formed off a shattered foundation. They are composed of shooters; Malik Monk and Jeremy Lamb. Injury-prone/non-impactful players; Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller. So what is their quintessential plan of action?
“Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball (2) drives to the basket against Charlotte Hornets’ Nicolas Batum (5) and Marvin Williams (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.” by Chuck Burton licensed by AP Photo
They should go out and make a move that has big implications for a team that has unceasingly played it safe. By getting Lonzo, Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller get that passing player they haven’t played with since arriving in Charlotte. Kemba’s 5.8 assists per 36 minutes last season pales in comparison to Lonzo’s 7.6. Time for Charlotte to take a risk on a player.
Whatever happens, Lonzo news is going to catch the headlines, and he will certainly have a quick answer. His short responses often hold weight though. After all, Lonzo put it best following his first appearance in a Lakers jersey, his summer league debut.
“The only way I can go now is up.”