Jun 16, 2019
Ohm YoungmisukESPN Staff Writer
- Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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LOS ANGELES — Not long after learning his son Lonzo Ball will be part of a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, LaVar Ball made his thoughts clear on what he felt the Los Angeles Lakers had just agreed to do.
“I guarantee: Like I say again, it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship,” LaVar Ball told ESPN while at the Drew League on Saturday to watch his son LaMelo play. “Guarantee it.
“They’re going to regret it. I’m going to have fun with it. Because I told you all, it was crashing down. Now [the Lakers] completely crashed, but at least my son got off the boat before the thing exploded. I gave them a chance. You can rewind it and go back. I said if you get the three Ball brothers, you can survive this. You let him go, oh, it’s going to be a cold day in hell. Trust and believe that.”
Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo Ball and LaVar Ball were all at the Drew League to watch the youngest Ball play not long after sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans had agreed to a deal to send Lonzo, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks — including this year’s No. 4 overall selection — in exchange for Davis.
Lonzo stopped and took pictures with several fans before politely declining to answer questions about the reported deal.
LaVar told ESPN in February, before the trade deadline, that he did not want Lonzo traded to New Orleans before talks between the Lakers and Pelicans fell apart. The elder Ball told ESPN then that if his son couldn’t remain in Los Angeles, the Phoenix Suns would be a good fit.
On Saturday, LaVar was asked if Lonzo will play for the Pelicans, who also have point guard Jrue Holiday.
Lonzo missed the last 36 games of the season with an ankle injury but had been shooting on the court and was due to begin contact drills next month, according to a source.
LaVar said his son is feeling “great.”
“Lonzo don’t care about no trade,” LaVar said. “He just wants to play. So his main thing is, ‘As long as my foot keeps getting better, I’ll play for anybody.'”
The agreed-upon trade marks the end of the Ball era in Los Angeles, which lasted just two injury-marred seasons with the Lakers. Lonzo, who starred at Chino Hills High School in Southern California, was drafted second overall in 2017 out of UCLA amid enormous expectations.
Magic Johnson, the former Lakers president of basketball operations, believed so much in Ball that he traded former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell in June 2017 to let Ball become the franchise’s leader. Johnson declared at the introductory news conference for Ball that the then-19-year-old prospect would someday have his No. 2 jersey hang in the rafters along with the other Lakers legends.
The boisterous LaVar only added to the enormous hype around Lonzo as he pumped life into his athletic apparel company, Big Baller Brand, with headline-drawing predictions about his son.
Ball’s Lakers career started with a bang as he created a buzz with his play to help them win the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017. But injuries slowed him, and Ball never played more than 52 games in either of his two seasons.
He averaged 10 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from the field and just 43.7 percent from the free throw line in 99 games for the Lakers.
“What do I think went wrong? I know what went wrong,” LaVar said of the Ball era in L.A. ending prematurely after so much hype. “The coaching was the beginning. When I didn’t see [former Lakers coach Luke Walton] believe in Lonzo and start taking him out after five or six minutes and put him back in and not starting the fourth quarter, he ain’t never played like that. … Now you don’t let him win. You get these raggedy-ass trainers who got him training with these rubber bands — guess what, you’re going to get hurt.”
“Magic knows talent,” LaVar added. “He knows how good Lonzo is. And when you got these folks in the way messing up your vision, you ain’t got no good precision.”
LaVar said the pass-first Lonzo only will help Zion Williamson, who is expected to be taken first overall by New Orleans in Thursday’s draft.
“Lonzo could be with Sara Lee, and she gonna be good,” LaVar said. “Lonzo with anybody. Lonzo going to groom him, letting him know that when you get open, you’re going to get the ball. He’s going to make him so much better than what everybody’s thinking. So everybody doubting him and saying, ‘You know what? You don’t have these post moves. You’re not polished, just a good runner and athletic,’ Lonzo will fine-tune him.”
LaVar said the Lakers are “gonna be known for always getting rid of great players,” adding that “everybody who gets away from the Lakers, boy, they do so much better after they get away.”
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said, citing Russell and ex-Laker Julius Randle. “I’m not just saying this. … Anybody that leaves, unless you were with Lonzo and then you get stuck in Cleveland like Larry Nance and [Jordan] Clarkson. They’re not doing as good. Zo makes them better than that.”
LaVar, who still wants to see a team sign all three of his sons to play together, said a fresh start might be a good thing for Lonzo.
“I don’t care where Lonzo plays,” LaVar said. “I want him to play. And it is better to go somewhere where you can just play and do your thing and be that guy instead of having all these question marks behind you.
“And once you don’t believe in him, it is kind of hard to come back and be like, ‘Oh, we believe in him now because now we don’t know if you’re true or not.’ You had the first chance to believe in him and you didn’t, so guess what, it’s time to go.”