With James on the Lakers, the influence of the Ball family will be put to the test
There is something quite delightful about the arrival of LeBron James in Los Angeles and it has nothing to do with the transcendence of arguably the greatest basketball player to dunk on this earth.
Quite simply, LeBron is in and LaVar Ball, the most annoying man in America, will have no choice but to take his sorry, self-aggrandizing, condescending butt out of town.
If you don’t think James is now running the Lakers, you have seriously underestimated the level of influence superstardom demands. The Lakers will be built in his image and to his specifications and Magic Johnson, despite his celestial presence, will likely just be the conduit who handles the business end.
Which brings us to Ball, the most annoying man in America.
There is no way in Lakerland that James is going to tolerate Ball’s absurdity, the way the guy believes he can manipulate every situation he’s involved with.
That might have been the case with Luke Walton, the Lakers coach, or Steve Alford, who coached Ball’s younger son, LiAngelo, at UCLA before the kid shoplifted in China with two of his buddies and got suspended, which got Daddy Ball angry, which resulted in LiAngelo leaving the Bruins.
It might have been the happiest day of Alford’s coaching life.
Ball’s eldest son, Lonzo, just completed his rookie season with the Lakers. He played in only 52 games. He has a bum shoulder and torn meniscus. And the kid is not Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker. Lonzo has a lot of holes in his game, particularly his questionable shooting touch. He shot 36 percent from the field and an abysmal 45.1 from the free-throw line.
In the midst of all this, you may remember that in January, when the Lakers had lost nine straight, LaVar accused Walton on ESPN of losing his team.
“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” Ball said. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.
“That’s a good team. Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”
When and if Lonzo Ball’s erraticism irritates James, its entirely likely LeBron will turn to Walton, and with a very specific look on his face, tell the coach to take the kid out of the game.
And it will be at that point when LaVar Ball’s complaining will carom of LeBron’s chest like bullets off Superman. And then Ball will drop his weapon and run away.
According to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, this was Ball’s response when asked what LeBron might be able to teach Lonzo: “Can LeBron teach him what? No, he can’t teach him nothing. I already taught him everything.”
We can’t wait for the first time LaVar Ball tries to undercut LeBron. The expected response: A smile and a “next question” brush off.
Still, things are already assembling under a possible circus tent with the Lakers.
Along with LeBron, they signed Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo and both already have a questionable track record with James.
If you will recall, it was Stephenson who famously blew a sweet nothing into LeBron’s ear during the 2014 Eastern Conference finals between Indiana and Cleveland. And no, LeBron did not care for that.
Rondo pissed James off a big way when he was with the Celtics when he joined forces with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett by giving Ray Allen the cold shoulder after the certain Hall of Fame guard left Boston for Miami.
But, any possible acrimony might only last one season, the terms of both Rondo and Stephenson’s deals.
Of course, there have always been assumptions that LeBron’s presence has contributed to the emasculation of his NBA coaches.
In 2010, the Cavaliers fired Mike Brown because they thought it might help convince LeBron to stay in Cleveland.
Once in Miami, LeBron’s deference was directed at Pat Riley much more than Eric Spoelstra, even though the Heat won two championships during their time together.
And now there are wise guys popping jokes welcoming Tyronn Lue as the “new” coach of the Cavaliers, even though he’s held the job since 2015. It’s no wonder Lue now admits he’s been treated for anxiety.
Hopefully, Walton understands this and will be willing to adjust in such a way to create the kind of brain trust the Lakers will need to win.
Look, James has been to eight straight NBA Finals and he took a serious discount (although $54 million is tip money to him) to leave Cleveland and come to L.A. Do you really think he came for the sunshine?
LeBron wants to win at least one more championship. And if must put the team on his shoulders again, like he did in Cleveland, anybody not on train better get off it.
It’s incredible to believe the naivety that so many exhibited to allow LaVar Ball to become as influential as he thinks he is. Why exactly are his three sons so much more special than any of the others who play basketball? And who gave him the platform to exercise his infuriating point of view that the game suddenly was subservient to him?
The Lakers need to trade Lonzo, and by connection, his dopey daddy. They have Rondo now so there is no need for the kid and the possible distractions the paternal side of his family will eventually create.
Dump Daddy Ball now.