Lonzo Ball

Pacific Notes: Ball, Jackson, Wilson, Suns

Lonzo Ball‘s rise from UCLA standout to the Lakers‘ teenage cornerstone has been largely hyped up by his outspoken father, LaVar Ball. The elder Ball has become a media sensation, known for his flurry of outrageous claims (claiming he can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one) and promotion of his son’s abilities has been front page news since last year. While the world is still learning how to deal with the circus, the younger Ball is not ashamed or surprised at how his father conducts himself in the public eye.

“I think it’s overblown, I mean, that’s how my dad is, I’m used to him acting like that, so it’s nothing new for me,” Ball said in an interview with USA Today. “The way we look at it as a family is positive, you know, we talked it over before all this happened and we all know he’s going to do what he’s going to do. We just look at it as a positive and try to run with it.”

Once the season is underway, and Lonzo tries to live up to LaVar’s promise of leading the Lakers to the playoffs in his first season, past comments will not be relevant anymore. Ball will have to execute his on-court abilities and block out the noise associated with the NBA season. He will seek showing the world that his dad claiming his son is better than Stephen Curry is more than an offhand comment.

Below you can read additional news surrounding the Pacific Division:

  • The Kyrie Irving saga has continued and training camp, followed by the regular season, are all drawing closer. Irving has drawn interest from around the NBA and in his latest piece, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer examines the possibility of Kyrie to the Suns. Specifically, O’Connor addresses Phoenix trading 2017 first rounder Josh Jackson for the NBA champion, ultimately viewing a trade for a proven commodity over keeping an athletic asset with upside a no-brainer.
  • The Clippers‘ deal with Jamil Wilson is a two-year, two-way contract, according to basketball journalist David Pick (via Twitter). Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweeted that $50,000 of Wilson’s first-year salary is guaranteed.
  • In a minor coaching change, the Suns named Jeff Fish the director of performance and head strength and conditioning coach, per a team announcement.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Ball, Warriors, Jordan

The decision to remove DeMarcus Cousins from the equation has brought a sense of happiness and hope around the moribund Kings franchise, Nick Zappulla of RealGM opines. The pieces are now in place for a quick turnaround via the acquisition of Buddy Hield in the trade with the Pelicans along with four promising rookies taken in the draft, particularly floor leader De’Aaron Fox and forward Harry Giles, Zappulla continues. Big men Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein showed progress once Cousins was removed from the picture and the club also brought in three veteran free agents to facilitate the development of the young players, Zappulla adds.

In other items regarding the Pacific Division:

  • The league’s television partners certainly have Lonzo Ball fever, as evidenced by the Lakers’ 35 nationally-televised games next season, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register notes. That’s the fifth-most national broadcasts among all teams despite the franchise coming off a 26-win season. Much of it can be attributed to lottery pick Ball, both for his passing skills and the hype-man routine of his father LaVar, Oram adds.
  • The Warriors’ center rotation is unlikely to change next season despite the presence of some promising young players at the back end, Anthony Slater of The Athletic opines. Zaza Pachulia will continue to start with JaVale McGee backing him up and David West getting minutes there at the start of second quarters, according to Slater. Damian Jones, who was inconsistent in summer-league play, or rookie Jordan Bell could force their way into the rotation at some point, Slater adds.
  • Center DeAndre Jordan realizes the Clippers won’t be the same team without Chris Paul, but expects point guard additions Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic to keep the franchise among the best in the West, Jovan Buha of ESPN.com reports. “Those guys are going to come in and play their style of basketball, and it’s going to be fun,” Jordan told Buha.

Poll: Best Rookie Point Guard Season

The 2017 NBA Draft was loaded with talented point guards, including first overall pick Markelle Fultz, No. 2 selection Lonzo Ball, and fellow lottery picks De’Aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. 

Fultz showed flashes of brilliance in the NBA Summer League amid overall inconsistent play before he ultimately injured his ankle in his Las Vegas debut. The 76ers guard was promptly shut down for the remainder of Summer League. This season, the rookie figures to be a regular fixture in the Philadelphia backcourt.

After dominating his freshman season at UCLA, Ball won Las Vegas Summer League MVP honors, racking up assists (9.3 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG), as well as points and rebounds. Although it is not clear whether Ball will start for the Lakers right out of the gate, he will certainly be the beneficiary of a hearty amount of playing time.

Fox is also expected to see his fair share of action this season, but averaged just 21.3 minutes per game in four Las Vegas Summer League games. Like Fultz and Ball, Fox exhibited tantalizing athleticism. The Kentucky product averaged a solid 11.8 points per contest and 3.0 assists. Fox’s 2.3 SPG were extremely impressive.

The Knicks drafted Ntilikina eighth overall because of his speed and agility. Last season, the point guard averaged just 15.5 minutes per game for Strasbourg in France but displayed tremendous promise and improved noticeably as a shooter. With D. Rose out of town, it appears as if the keys to Madison Square Garden are about to be Frank’s.

In six games in Las Vegas, Smith averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 4.2 APG, shooting 45.7% from the floor and electrifying with the occasional powerful dunk. The Mavericks prospect also tallied 2.2 SPG.

This brings us to today’s poll: Which of these point guards will have the best rookie season in 2017/18?

Pacific Notes: Ball, Randle, Reed, Williams

Before he even suits up for a regular season game with the Lakers, Lonzo Ball has already made an impact on the team, J.A. Adande of ESPN writes. The scribe notes that the Lakers just sold the rest of its season ticket inventory and a recent season ticket viewing open house — which only yielded 175 sales last season — sold over 600 available seats for next season.

Ball certainly made an impression in the Las Vegas Summer League, taking home Most Valuable Player honors and generating headlines by simply wearing different brands of sneakers. Also, Adande notes that five summer league contests that generated the highest ratings were Lakers games. Despite being just 19 years old, Ball has become a polarizing figure and, in the early stages, living up to the hype generated by his outspoken father, LaVar Ball.

It will not be an easy feat to secure Rookie of the Year honors, or speak his father’s words of bringing the Lakers to the playoffs in 2017/18 into existence. However, playing a city and for a team that prides itself on Showtime, Ball has given the organization and its fans something to get excited about.

Here are additional notes from around the Pacific Division:

  • Julius Randle is entering his fourth NBA season and coming off a season where he averaged 13.2 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 74 contests. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes that Randle is hoping to find improvement next season after altering his conditioning program and trimming down his body weight.
  • The Clippers signed Willie Reed to a team-friendly one-year, $1.5MM deal and he’s happy to be with the team, Basketball Insiders’ Cody Taylor writes. Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley were among the teammates to welcome Reed to L.A. and he’s excited to begin playing with the club.
  • Alan Williams has parlayed a lack of college interest, international play, and shoddy NBA workouts into a three-year, $17MM deal with the Suns. As Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes, Williams is grateful to have both cashed in with the deal and remained with the team he rooted for as a kid.
  • Speaking of Williams, the Suns’ cap space after the signing is $6.3MM though the team also owns a $12.1MM hold on 24-year-old international talent Alex Len, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Lonzo Ball Diagnosed With Mild Calf Strain

Second overall pick and NBA Summer League Most Valuable Player, Lonzo Ball, underwent an MRI Tuesday that revealed a mild calf strain, the Lakers announced. There is no timetable for Ball’s full recovery but he is expected to begin workouts with teammates soon, per Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet (via Twitter).

Ball, 19, averaged 16.3 PPG, 9.3 APG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.5 SPG, during the Las Vegas Summer League — which included two triple-doubles — but sat out Monday’s championship game against Portland due to the injury. Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma ended up being named the Las Vegas Summer League Finals MVP.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, training staff has been with me but they ruled me out,” Ball said to ESPN Monday about his injury, noting that he did not think it was serious.

As noted by ESPN, Ball became the third top-two pick to win Summer League MVP honors, joining Blake Griffin (2009) and John Wall (2010).

The UCLA product will now prepare for his first NBA season as he attempts to live up to the hype produced by his outspoken father, LaVar Ball.

Community Shootaround: Lakers Future

The Lonzo Ball Era has officially arrived in Los Angeles – well, Las Vegas technically – and the potential impact the No. 2 overall pick will have on the franchise can already be felt world-wide.

Sure the Lakers lost to the Clippers (in what Lavar Ball calls his son’s ‘worst game ever‘) but the rookie’s vision was on full display right from the onset of the first quarter.

Just over ten seconds into his NBA debut, Ball connected with Lakers 2016 first-round pick Brandon Ingram for a casual alley-oop.

Already the prospect of seeing Ball and the new-look Showtime squad has pushed the organization into new territory (or at least familiar territory that they haven’t seen in some time).

After years of Post-Prime-Kobe and consistent asset collection, the team has brought in a new executive staff, committed to a highly regarded young coach and laid out a framework for a roster that could remain in Los Angeles for years.

The result?

History. Sort of. As Ohm Youngmisuk detailed for ESPN – and we broke down here – the Las Vegas Summer League sold out their venue for Saturday’s entire session and had done so by noon today. That’s a first, Youngmisuk reports, reminding readers that the Thomas & Mack Center’s venue seats over 15,000 people.

The question, of course, is whether the franchise will live up to the hype or not. While there are several legitimate reasons to be genuinely optimistic about the future of the franchise, there was no shortage of hype this time last year either, when the team presented Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and then-new head coach Luke Walton as the pillars of the team’s future. Ball, then, hadn’t even yet suited up for a single Bruins game at that point.

We ask you, Lakers fans and haters alike, will this go down as the beginning of the next great Showtime dynasty? Are we finally seeing the core building blocks of the organization’s next great run? Or, for the pessimistic among us, will we simply be having an entirely different conversation this time next year?

Lakers Sign Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart

3:14pm: The Lakers have officially signed Ball and have also announced the signings of their other two first-round picks, Kyle Kuzma (No. 27) and Josh Hart (No. 30). Kuzma’s four-year deal will be worth about $8.65MM, while Hart’s will be worth approximately $8.475MM.

9:40am: The Lakers will formally sign second overall pick Lonzo Ball to his first NBA contract today, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Like other rookie deals for first-round picks, Ball’s pact will feature two guaranteed years followed by two team options.

As our chart for this year’s rookie scale shows, Ball is in line to make about $6.287MM in his rookie season. Assuming he plays out his full four-year deal, he’ll earn more than $33MM over the life of the contract. The UCLA product will be eligible for an extension in 2020, and would otherwise reach restricted free agency in 2021.

In past years, teams have been patient when it comes to signing first-round picks, since cap holds for those draftees counted for 100% of their rookie scale figure, despite the fact that virtually every player signed for 120% of the rookie scale. The league’s new CBA adjusted those cap holds to count for 120% of the rookie scale figure, so there’s now little incentive for teams to wait.

Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Jonathan Isaac (Magic), Malik Monk (Hornets), Luke Kennard (Pistons), and Bam Adebayo (Heat) are among the other first-rounders who have already officially signed contracts with their new teams.

Latest On Paul George

There’s a near-unanimous view around the league that Paul George will sign with the Lakers next summer despite Friday’s trade to the Thunder, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Lowe states that the chances of George heading to L.A. are about 75%, and the Celtics and Cavaliers had that in mind as they were working to obtain him.

The Lakers also subscribe to that view, which is why they weren’t willing to part with Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball to get George from the Pacers now. Lowe adds that Indiana didn’t have any interest in former Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, who was subsequently dealt to the Nets.

The ESPN writer shares more information about Friday’s major deal:

  • The Celtics wanted to see if they could land Gordon Hayward in free agency before completing a trade for George. They were reluctant to deal two starters in exchange for George without knowing whether they were getting Hayward.
  • Boston’s last offer for George didn’t include Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, the 2018 Nets pick or the Lakers/Kings pick that Boston received from Philadelphia. There were reports that the Celtics offered Indiana three picks at some point, but Lowe believes those were a combination of Boston’s future selections and protected 2019 first-rounders from the Grizzlies and Clippers. All of those draft choices could have fallen into the 20s, Lowe notes, and the Pacers wanted something more likely to be in the top 10.
  • A three-way trade involving the Pacers, Cavaliers and Nuggets was discussed on Friday. The deal would have sent George to Cleveland, Kevin Love to Denver and Gary Harris, Trey Lyles and a protected first-rounder to Indiana. Lowe describes the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Celtics as “stunned” when news broke that George was headed to Oklahoma City.
  • The Trail Blazers tried to get George on draft night, offering a package that included several picks and at least one player, but the Pacers turned it down.

Lakers Notes: FA Priorities, Nwaba, Ball

Speaking to the media, including Mark Medina of the Orange County Register, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that the Lakers were relentless on the draft day trade market and even spoke with the Pacers about a possible Paul George deal.

While they didn’t ultimately manage anything of a similar magnitude to their Brook Lopez trade days before, they did manage to move the No. 28 pick for a pair later in the draft and are expected to continue seeking ways of improving.

That will continue until we get in a position again where we feel like this roster is a championship-level roster,” Pelinka said. “We’re not there yet. So we’re going to be relentless with the work and we’re going to pursue every opportunity until we reach our goal.”

  • When free agency begins next week, expect the Lakers to target shooters, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. General manager Rob Pelinka is said to have shooting at the top of his priority list.
  • The Lakers have until Saturday to decide if they’d like to pick up David Nwaba‘s $1.3MM option for next season, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. Update: Bresnahan has sent an updated tweet, correcting the deadline to Thursday (as opposed to Saturday)
  • General manager Rob Pelinka thinks that the Lakers will need two superstars to compete for a championship and intends to go out and get them. “I think with the leading teams in the league today, we felt like, to be able to look them in the eye and challenge them, we need two superstar players to come here and join this platform and join our core group of players we now have,” he told Baxter Holmes of ESPN. “That’s our plan, and we’re going to put all of our energy and all of our hard work toward that.”
  • A contributing factor to the Lakers taking Lonzo Ball with their second overall pick was the unconventional workout the two parties went through prior to the draft. The Vertical’s Shams Charania has details of the day the Lakers spent observing the eventual No. 2 overall pick’s daily routine.

Draft Notes: Ball, Ntilikina, Bulls, Mavericks

The Lakers are widely expected to take Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick after trading D’Angelo Russell on Tuesday, but Ball tells Adam Zagoria of FanRag Sports that he hasn’t received a guarantee from the team. Ball worked out twice for L.A., with the second time reportedly at the request of the Lakers after a disappointing showing in the first session. “I think they were both fine,” he said. L.A. is still giving “real consideration” to Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

There’s more news as teams lock in their draft strategies:

  • French point guard Frank Ntilikina held a last-minute workout for the Knicks this morning, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Sources tell Berman that the Mavericks, who are also in the market for a point guard, talked to the Timberwolves about trading up from the ninth pick to the seventh to have a shot at Ntilikina, but talks collapsed because of Minnesota’s high asking price. The Wolves would prefer to use that pick as part of a package to get Jimmy Butler from the Bulls. Today’s workout was conducted by former Knicks player developmental coach Chris Brickley, who tutored Ntilikina last summer.
  • If the Bulls do move Butler, they will likely target Fox or Josh Jackson, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.
  • The Celtics are also interested in the seventh pick and have spoken to the Wolves about a possible deal, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. Boston may want an extra draft choice to sweeten its offer to the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis.
  • Responding to Damian Lillard‘s request for a better supporting cast, the Trail Blazers are trying to acquire a lottery pick, tweets Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News. Portland’s priority in any deal is getting rid of a bad contract, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The Blazers made an offer for Paul George, but it “doesn’t move the needle” for the Pacers, relays Jason Quick of CSNNW (Twitter link).
  • The Raptors, who hold the No. 23 pick, are gauging interest around the league and are willing to trade down, according to Scotto (Twitter link).
  • The Nuggets, who have the 13th selection, are another team that may try to move down, tweets Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. He notes that Denver has a history of making draft-night trades.
  • Several teams have expressed an interest in moving into the late part of the lottery, according to Givony (Twitter link). He lists the Lakers, Hawks, Nets, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Rockets as teams that might try to acquire a pick in the 10-14 range.
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