Lonzo Ball says the Los Angeles Lakers need a leader and he believes that he can offer the team just that. In fact, Ball says he was born a leader and that quality comes to him naturally on the court.
Ball participated in his first workout with the Lakers on Wednesday, the team many expect to select him with the second overall pick on June 22. He dined with several of the Lakers’ top decision makers on Tuesday night, including Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Luke Walton.
“It was a good dinner,” Ball said after his workout with the Lakers. “A lot of fun meeting Magic and the coaches for the first time. I’m glad I came.”
His workout with the Lakers on Wednesday was his first with any team ahead of the draft. As a player that is projected to be drafted so high, he and his management team may not elect to schedule many other workouts.
While it seems like a foregone conclusion that the Lakers would draft ball with the second overall pick, it has been reported recently that the team could elect to draft Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox instead.
Early on in the draft process, Ball made it clear that he’d only meet with the Lakers. However, since that point, it has been documented that his camp may be open to meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers and possibly the Sacramento Kings, who hold the third and fifth overall picks, respectively.
He isn’t sure yet if he’ll be meeting with other teams.
“I leave that up to my agent,” Ball said. “Whatever he tells me to do, I do.”
While it’s tough to tell which teams are being truthful so close to the draft, it seems like a great fit for the Lakers and Ball. After watching him play his freshman year at UCLA, it was clear that Ball became a leader on the court for the Bruins.
The common trait among all point guards is leadership. They are the quarterback of the offense and lead the team night in and night out. Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, six rebounds and 1.8 steals per game at UCLA and was his team’s leading assist man.
“I just think they need a leader, a point guard,” Ball said. “I feel like I can bring that to the team — just bringing in a winning attitude. Everybody banding together and getting this done together.”
During his time at UCLA, Ball established himself as a pass-first point guard. Bruins head coach Steve Alford credited Ball for being a player that can set up his teammates on one night or look to score on other nights. One game against UC Riverside, Ball recorded just five points but dished out 13 assists in the win.
“My dad asked me what position I wanted to play; I said point guard,” Ball said. “He was like, ‘All right, if you’re going to play point guard, you got to get the ball up.’ Ever since then I’ve just been passing.”
As he established himself as a top-five draft pick on the court, it’s become apparent that he could bring some baggage with him to whichever team may draft him. His father, LaVar, has become quite a hit in the media and on social platforms in recent weeks given his outlandish opinions and marketing strategies.
Some question if LaVar’s strategy will have a negative impact on his son’s draft stock. While Lonzo’s play on the court certainly speaks for itself, teams know that they could inherit a media circus if they draft him. Still, Lonzo doesn’t believe his dad will be a distraction.
“They said that about me in high school and they said that about me in college,” Lonzo said. “I don’t think it will affect me. Everybody has an opinion. I know who I am. People who know me know who I am. That’s all that matters.”
Lonzo says the Lakers loved his dad.
“They said they love him,” Lonzo said. “That’s about it.”
For Lonzo, staying at home in Los Angeles and playing for the Lakers would be exciting for him. He grew up watching the Lakers play and idolized Magic Johnson as a player. In fact, he says he models his game after Johnson.
“He’s a big point guard, I’m a big point guard,” Ball said. “He likes to push it, I like to push it. He likes to pass, I like to pass. It was a blessing [meeting him]. Best point guard to ever play. Me being a point guard, I looked up to him my whole life. To finally get a chance to meet him, it’s just a blessing.”
It remains to be seen if the Lakers will ultimately select Lonzo on June 22. A case can be made that by taking him, it would give the Lakers their next star and another formidable player to build around.
That decision will be made in the coming days as the draft nears, but don’t be surprised if Magic Johnson & Co. add a player that figures to keep the team relevant for years to come.
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