Lonzo Ball’s first go-round with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t work out quite as expected, but with rumors of the team’s interest in bringing him back this summer, this time would be different for many reasons.
Somehow, Ball became the most hyped player to join the Lakers in decades when they drafted him No. 2 overall in 2017, which was a recipe for disaster unless he lived up to unrealistic expectations.
Ball had high hopes with the Lakers and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault that it didn’t work out. The timing simply didn’t fit and everyone understandably got caught up in the hype.
When Ball joined the Lakers, they were still in the post-Kobe Bryant era looking for that next superstar. Once LeBron James came along it was clear that the Lakers were ready to contend now as they traded Ball and other to the Pelicans for superstar Anthony Davis.
While the Lakers went on to win a championship, many fans were enthralled with Ball and have always wanted him back.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein of the New York Times’ newsletter, the Lakers are looking for a playmaker to allow James and Davis to play more power forward and center, respectively. Now that the rumor mill has officially begun churning, let’s dive into five reasons why things would be different for ‘Zo’ this time around if he were to once again don the Purple and Gold.
For a short period, it seemed as though Lonzo’s dad Lavar Ball may have been the most popular Laker and he wasn’t even a player. These were strange days for the Lakers as they were losing like they were at the end of the Kobe era, which we weren’t used to seeing, but were missing that star power as the media was desperate for anyone sound-bite-worthy.
If you wanted soundbites, Lavar Ball was where you could turn to as he was constantly making noise. How the media began to take a player’s father seriously is something we may never know, but Lavar’s bombastic personality was hard to ignore.
Some of Lavar’s wildest comments include saying that Lonzo winning Rookie of the Year was a ‘done deal’ as he put immediate pressure on his eldest son. Now that the Lakers have won a championship after trading Ball, it’s hard to remember just how absurd the Lavar-Lonzo situation was.
Lonzo was rarely given a chance to shine on his own as Lavar was always stealing the show during interviews, talking far more than his son. One of the best examples of this was on Jimmy Kimmel Live when Lavar said he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one, which led to Lonzo being asked if he could beat Jordan one-on-one in the present.
Of course, many of today’s players would have a shot at beating a then-54-year old Michael Jordan one-on-one, but that’s not what the headlines said. The headlines were that Lonzo said he could beat Jordan now, which he never would have been asked without his father’s absurd claim.
As Lonzo’s career has moved to New Orleans, we’ve seen some of those expectations lessen and bit and in turn, we’ve seen Lonzo develop into more of who he is as a player and a person without the large shadow of Lavar overcasting him. That’s why the thought of bringing Lonzo back is more appealing that ever as Lavar wouldn’t be a distraction for the Lakers’ new championship regime.
Magic Johnson is one of the greatest Lakers and a top-five NBA player of all time having won five championships with the only franchise he’s ever known. When he became the President of Basketball Operations, Johnson took on a role that may have involved even more scrutiny with the Lakers, particularly due to the era of social media we now live in.
While Magic’s tenure with the Lakers will be remembered for many things, it’s important to remember that he was ultimately instrumental in bringing James to L.A. However, there were some interesting moments and difficult situations that Magic had to deal with.
Johnson was desperate for a star along with the rest of the Lakers fan base before James arrived and so while sympathizing with the fan base, he got on board with Lavar’s Lonzo hype train. Magic even went so far as to say, “we expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day,” while referring to the other retired Lakers jerseys before he even played a game.
He also called Ball the “new face of the Lakers.” All of this created insurmountable pressure that Lonzo may have lived up to in an early game with a 29-point-near triple-double, but was never able to maintain.
While Magic will always be a beloved figure in Lakers history, he set Ball up for expectations that very few players in NBA history could live up to. With Magic out of management, Lonzo would have a chance to come back to new Lakers management with his role more clearly defined and a far greater chance of success.
When Lonzo first came to the Lakers, the Ball brothers were all the rage. Lavar was even talking about all three of them being on the Lakers at one point and even using Lonzo as leverage, which prompted him to say his dad, ‘always talks.’
However, a few years later, we’ve seen that LiAngelo is still working his way into the NBA, while LaMelo Ball fulfilled one of Lonzo’s promises by winning Rookie of the Year in 2020-21. Lamelo had less hype than Lonzo after being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and the world learning that not all of Lavar’s predictions come true.
LaMelo is now the toast of the league when it comes to teenage talent with his flashy passes, multi-faceted scoring attack and knack for highlight plays. The beauty of this is that it gives Lonzo legitimate friendly competition.
After being traded to the Pelicans, Lonzo fell into the background a bit compared to his star-studded days on the Lakers. He was known more for his lobs to rising superstar Zion Williamson and his 3-point shooting.
LaMelo ups the ante on Lonzo to once again reclaim his status as the best hooping Ball brother. While that may be difficult, Lonzo carving out a role for himself on the Lakers could lead to being the first Ball brother with a championship ring.
Lonzo Knows Who He Is:
Lonzo came into the league touted as the next Michael Jordan, the next LeBron James or even, ‘Steph Curry with a 40-inch vertical’. None of those things came to be true, but Lonzo is now realizing that he’s the first Lonzo Ball.
Lonzo can pass with the best of them and is able to toss lobs for thunderous alley-oops like he’s been doing it his whole life. He can even pass full-court lobs better than most players in the league.
After Lonzo came in hyped as an incredible shooter, many commented on his broken jump shot and how funky it looked. This would have been alright if the results showed, but they didn’t.
While Lonzo’s overall shooting could improve, he has become a legitimate threat from 3-point range. Some of these factors make Lonzo a great fit with the current Lakers roster, but mostly that he knows who he is as a player and could accept a reduced but still important role alongside James and Davis.
Roster Fit On A Proven Team:
The reality is that Lonzo Ball was set up to fail with his last tenure on the Lakers, but this time around things are much different.
It seems as though things are meant to be and everything happens for a reason as the player Lonzo has evolved into fits what the Lakers are looking for perfectly. Lonzo isn’t the 30-point per game scorer many expected, but he has upped his scoring average to a career-high 14.6 points per game while shooting 37.8% from three, which is well above league average.
Distance shooting is exactly what the Lakers need and Lonzo has proven he can give that. Lonzo also averaged 5.7 assists, which is near his rookie average of 7.2 and he would be playing with two proven All-Stars for his first time.
Shooting and playmaking are what the Lakers need and this is what Lonzo provides. Add in the fan-favorite hometown element without all the impediments holding him back from last time to go along with his previously existing LeBron relationship and Lonzo to the Lakers in 2021 could be a match made in heaven.
While there are hurdles involved, it makes sense for the Lakers to at least explore this option this summer as they look to improve their roster to win another championship.
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