- Sean M. Haffey/Getty
- Though LaVar Ball once said he’d be hands-off with his son Lonzo and the Los Angeles Lakers, his comments reached new heights recently when he said head coach Luke Walton had lost the team.
- Both Lonzo Ball and Walton downplayed the comments, but it’s another incident that has turned into a distraction for the Lakers.
- It’s unclear how the Lakers can ask LaVar Ball to tone down his criticism, and it seems unlikely to stop.
LaVar Ball once promised the Los Angeles Lakers that he would be hands-off with his son Lonzo, but that promise has been broken less than halfway into the season.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported in July that LaVar Ball and the Lakers president Magic Johnson sat down before the NBA draft in June and Ball promised that he would let the Lakers work with his son. Ball said he would coach his two youngest sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, and would let the Lakers coaches do their jobs.
Ball has not remained hands-off, however. On Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Ball believed Lakers coach Luke Walton had lost control of the team, which selected Lonzo Ball with the second pick of the draft.
“Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more,” Ball told Goodman. “They don’t want to play for him.”
The comments were not Ball’s first time involving himself with the Lakers’ goings-on. He has criticized Walton’s coaching before and made Lonzo Ball a target of other players. Ball’s outspokenness even prompted the Lakers to enforce a media rule in an effort to prevent media members from interviewing him at games.
Now it seems as though the situation is coming to a head. Both Lonzo Ball and Walton downplayed Ball’s comments on Sunday.
“He is going to say what he wants to say,” Lonzo Ball told reporters. “I can’t [do] nothing about it.” The Lakers rookie, however, didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of Walton, saying only that he would play for whoever was coaching the team.
Walton told ESPN he was confident with his job status, adding that the team’s management was “100 percent behind and supporting what we’re doing.”
Walton even had some fun with the comments, joking after the Lakers’ 132-113 Sunday-night win over the Atlanta Hawks of substituting Lonzo out of the game because “his dad was talking s— so I took him out early.”
Yet this round of comments is making waves. Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle blasted ESPN for giving LaVar Ball an outlet, saying that ESPN as an NBA partner should not be broadcasting a “blowhard” calling for a coach’s job.
According to the NBA reporter Sam Amico, some coaches want to deny media credentials to reporters who interview LaVar Ball.
The dispute shows the extent to which Ball has become a prominent voice whose comments are viewed as newsworthy rather than a typical sports parent. It’s unclear how the Lakers could proceed from here. Lonzo Ball has made it clear that his father will say what he wants, a suggestion he does not intend to tell Ball to quiet his criticisms.
Though some in the NBA world insisted it wouldn’t matter, this was always the fear about drafting Lonzo Ball – that it would be a package deal. The Lakers, who lost nine games in a row before Sunday and are 12-27, now have LaVar Ball to deal with, and it seems unlikely that he’ll tone it down anytime soon.