The Los Angeles Lakers had to have known when they drafted Lonzo Ball that his father, LaVar Ball, wasn’t always going to be easy to deal with. The elder Ball had displayed a gift for blasting his message out through the media long before the Lakers selected Lonzo, and the team’s media spotlight has only made that easier.
LaVar’s latest narrative has captured the NBA news cycle in a way only he really can, with his claim in an ESPN interview that Lakers head coach Luke Walton has “lost” the team and players were no longer motivated to play for him.
The matter intensified what has already been a circus of a rookie season for Lonzo, but it also put Walton in an uncomfortable position. It seemingly left him to choose between arguing with the parent of one of his most important players or taking the high road but risking the perception of being weak by not fighting back.
Walton chose to attempt to diffuse the situation with humor when he joked that he had benched Lonzo at one point in the Lakers’ win over the Atlanta Hawks because of his father’s trash-talk.
Meanwhile, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who Walton coached under for two years, said his former assistant shouldn’t have to deal with the situation at all, via Mark Medina of the Mercury News:
“I feel horrible for Luke. That’s my guy. That’s one of my best friends. He shouldn’t have to deal with this,” Kerr said. “To me, one of the things about the NBA is it’s always been a haven from the parents. The guys who coach high schools are the ones that have to deal with the parents. I’ve never had to talk to a parent who is upset about playing time. I’m sure there are plenty out there, but they don’t have a voice in the NBA. But for whatever reason, we’re giving this guy a voice and Luke has to deal with it. It’s a shame.”
Kerr has a point that the coverage of LaVar has become oversaturated in some cases. That being said, this probably isn’t one of them.
Whether other NBA coaches want to agree or not, the parent of one of the most important players in the Lakers’ young core openly stating that Walton shouldn’t be the coach of the team in the future is a story.
It might not be fair that Walton has to deal with it, but it’s the type of thing that the Lakers front office needs to attempt to address with LaVar, because the media has to pursue stories whether other coaches like Kerr find them flattering or not.
Walton said he’s been contacted by other coaches who expressed their support of him. In addition to Kerr, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer are among those to publicly come to Walton’s defense.
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