Rob Pelinka has surely had to deal with a lot of new challenges in his first year as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, but the most unique one might be how the team has to deal with Lonzo Ball’s father, LaVar Ball.
The perpetually outspoken father of the Lakers’ most important player young player hasn’t come at Pelinka himself, and he’s also refrained from criticizing his son’s teammates or Pelinka’s front office partner and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
Who LaVar has focused on with seemingly very little remorse, however, is Lakers head coach Luke Walton. LaVar has sniped at Walton through the media a few times this season, most recently when he implied Walton had lost the locker room.
Pelinka himself reaffirmed that he, Johnson and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss all still support Walton, and during the same appearance on Spectrum SportsNet’s “Connected With…”, added that he feels the media is making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to LaVar Ball:
“You know, we get lots of LaVar questions. I think as a general rule, with the Lakers organization, the opinions of any family members of any of our players, whether it’s dad, mom, uncle, sister, brother, just aren’t factored into the decisions we make in the front office. What we try to do with the family members of our players is support them, to service their needs, to make sure they’re really comfortable in the Lakers organization, in the role they’re in. We don’t spend a lot of time on that stuff. I think the media makes it a bigger deal than it is.”
Pelinka is on some level here just doing his job as far as damage control, minimizing Ball’s comments so that reporters may reconsider how they approach his next anti-Walton tirade. On the other hand, he also has a point, because LaVar doesn’t play for the Lakers. Lonzo does.
So far there has been no indication that LaVar is speaking for his son, and until his words either seem to be coming from Lonzo by proxy or the Lakers get actual behind-the-scenes intel that they’re having an effect on their own players or prospective free agents (rather than just loosely reported whispers), then the media probably is making a bigger deal about LaVar’s words than they need to be.
Regardless, Pelinka and LaVar getting on the same page would undoubtedly be helpful for at least the perception of the Lakers organization moving forward. So it will be interesting to see if Pelinka can meet whatever needs LaVar has and get him to stop mouthing off about his son’s coach in the media in the future.