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NBA PM: Motivation For Lonzo Ball

Would Magic Johnson REALLY pass on Lonzo Ball? For Ball, the mere suggestion should serve as a major motivator.

Moke Hamilton

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As he did for 13 NBA seasons, Magic Johnson basked in the spotlight. In New York City, the freshly minted head honcho of the Los Angeles Lakers saw his team land the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He let out a sigh of relief and flashed his signature pearly white teeth.

Now comes the hard part.

Since defeating the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals back in 2010, the Lakers have slowly regressed. The team is on its fourth permanent head coach since Phil Jackson’s departure, hasn’t won a playoff series since 2012 and hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2014. With Kobe Bryant’s retirement, the questions as to who the next great one to rise from the rubble of the once proud franchise would be.

D’Angelo Russell? Julius Randle? Paul George?

Lonzo Ball?

With many more questions than answers, Johnson has vowed to turn all of it around. Officially, his quest will actually begin in just a few short weeks. And what we have come to learn over the past few days, via multiple media reports, is that Ball is actually no slam dunk.

For as long as we can recall, Ball has been the one that has seemed to have been mentioned as the probable second pick for the Lakers, as it’s been assumed that the Boston Celtics would select Markelle Fultz first overall. Of course, it’s easy enough to understand why Johnson would appear to be leaning toward Ball. It is Johnson, after all, who said that the only young player on the roster that he would deem somewhat untouchable is Brandon Ingram. With Ingram still trying to find himself as an NBA pro, it would be difficult to imagine Johnson drafting other wing players like Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum with the second overall pick.

Conveniently, though, conjecture surrounding De’Aaron Fox has grown louder. Fox, who famously lit Ball and his UCLA Bruins up for 39 points, four assists and three rebounds during last spring’s NCAA tournament, apparently, is endangering Ball’s long-held dream.

Could the Lakers buck the trend and opt for Fox over the hometown kid?

Of course they could, but it’s just as likely that Magic Johnson wants to do something else by giving everyone that impression: motivate Lonzo Ball to prove himself.

Anyone that knows Magic knows that he’s a competitor and has long been a fighter. From the days of his playing career to his successes as an astute business man, Johnson’s reputation is one of being a tough guy who gets tougher as the stakes get higher. Without a doubt, he would look for similar characteristics in the player to whom he will entrust his franchise.

Ball, a Los Angeles native, is a youngster whose name has been making the rounds in the Los Angeles County area for a great many years. From Chino Hills to UCLA, he is the Los Angeles (light) version of LeBron James. Though nobody expects Ball to become a consensus All-Time Top-10 player the way James has, Ball’s story of being drafted to his hometown team in an attempt to rescue a now lost franchise is a tale truly made for Hollywood. You can bet that Lonzo wants nothing more than to author such a story.

The best thing for everybody, including Lonzo Ball himself, is for Magic Johnson to threaten to take that all away. Fox, the young man who ended Ball’s collegiate career, now, apparently, is contending to end his storybook Lakers career before it even begins.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Magic Johnson gets Lonzo Ball in a room on Wednesday…

Make no mistake about it: if you want to be the franchise player for the Lakers, your heart has to pump a different type of blood. And of all people, Magic knows that well.
Lakers fans are rabid. In Los Angeles, nothing less than winning is acceptable and winners rarely get things handed to them.

For that reason, Johnson should do exactly what he’s doing—put pressure on Lonzo Ball to prove that he is capable of carrying the mighty burden of being the franchise player. And the best way to give Lonzo that opportunity is to threaten him.

In the end, the Lakers will probably select Ball with the second overall pick. His rare combination of instinct and timing is what many of the great point guards are made of. That he stands tall with incredible size only cements his credibility as a promising NBA prospect. There’s no way to know whether or not he will end up as a better pro than De’Aaron Fox. But how he conducts himself, performs and responds to the rejection of the long-held notion that he’s sure to be handed his dream scenario—that’s what’ll likely resonate.

Nothing was ever handed to Magic. It’s fitting that he make whoever ends up being his first lottery selection earn it.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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Headlines

#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – The Final 60-Pick Mock

What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Steve Kyler

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What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Here is a final look at the 2020 Draft, and how it may play out in this final 60-pick Mock Draft of the 20202 NBA Draft process:

 

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