Lonzo Ball promises to bring ‘winning atmosphere’ to Lakers
Lonzo Ball peered over his right shoulder when about 50 media members rushed onto the Lakers’ practice court Wednesday in a quest to dissect his first pre-draft workout and to hear why he should be selected by Los Angeles with the second pick in the NBA draft.
Ball rose from the chair he had been sitting on talking to Lamar Odom and eased his way through the throng that engulfed him.
He was reserved and assured. He was polite and confident.
He didn’t shy away from talking about his bombastic father.
Over the course of an eight-minute interview, Lonzo Ball entertained a variety of questions, answering most with short statements.
Because the Lakers have that second pick in the draft that will take place June 22, Ball was asked if he wanted to play in L.A.
“Of course,” Ball responded. “I want to stay home.”
The Boston Celtics have the first pick and are thought to be leaning toward Washington guard Markelle Fultz.
He was a star at Chino Hills High, leading the team to a 35-0 record and a state title during the 2015-16 season. He was a star with UCLA, leading the Bruins to a 31-5 record and the Sweet 16 last season.
Based on that and his talent level, most NBA executives believe the Lakers will draft Ball.
But during a dinner Tuesday night with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton and during his workout Wednesday, Ball wasn’t given any assurances.
The Lakers will watch Kansas forward Josh Jackson work out Thursday in Sacramento and have scheduled a workout Tuesday at their practice facility for Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox.
“It was me meeting them and them meeting me and like I said, it was a fun atmosphere and I’m glad I got to do it,” Ball said about his dinner with the Lakers.
The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points and an NCAA-leading 7.6 assists last season at UCLA as a freshman. Few question his skill-set because of his pass-first ability as a point guard and willingness to make his teammates better.
Ball came off as quiet and shy, seemingly preferring to avoid all the media hype that surrounded him at UCLA and now after his workout.
His father, LaVar, on the other hand, has talked endlessly, creating controversy with his bold proclamations.
Again, Ball was asked if his father put him in an unfair position. LaVar wasn’t at the workout.
“Everyone has an opinion,” Lonzo said. “I know who I am. People who know me know who I am and that’s all that matters.”
In his solo workout that was closed to the media, Ball admitted that it “got me tired.”
But the feedback he got from Johnson, Walton and the Lakers’ coaching staff was encouraging.
“Just positive vibes,” Ball said. “Like I said, I had a lot of fun. It was great meeting everybody. Very welcoming.”
Ball, who said he’ll let his agent decide if he’ll work out for another team, was asked what he’d do if the Lakers don’t draft him.
“Um, like I said, I’d go to any team and just do what I do and play basketball,” he responded.
The Lakers have missed the playoffs the last four seasons. They have had the second pick in the draft the last two years — D’Angelo Russell in 2015 and Brandon Ingram in 2016 — and have that pick again.
So the question presented to Ball was how could he help change the culture if the Lakers take him second in the draft.
“Everything you do, you have to do for the team,” he said. “Bring a winning atmosphere in here and I feel like I can do that.”
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