Lonzo Ball: LaVar Ball’s notoriety ‘makes it a little bit harder’

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — By now the entire basketball world knows Lonzo Ball is a singular talent with a unique parent.

The UCLA product with preternatural court vision is among the most intriguing prospects in the NBA draft this week. In perhaps the greatest testament to his abilities, his father LaVar Ball’s bombast and $495 shoes and racially insensitive comments don’t appear to be scaring off the Los Angeles Lakers or any other team that believes Lonzo could be the next great point guard.

Because of his headline-magnet father, Ball’s celebrity has already outpaced his talents before he plays his first professional game. Yet ever since his days leading the Big Ballers AAU team set up by his dad, Lonzo has shown nothing but maturity and calm in the face of LaVar’s audacious approaches to hoops, parenting and the business of sports.

“I think it definitely doesn’t help,” Ball said of his father’s notoriety. “Definitely makes it a little bit harder. But any good player is going to have attention on him at all times, and I’m pretty used to it by now.”

Ball’s mental steadiness is another big reason he’s almost certain to be a top-three pick on Thursday. Ever since the Lakers got the No. 2 choice in the lottery last month, most draft observers have believed Ball will wear a gold jersey in the fall, completing a serendipitous match of player and team.

That’s been the dream scenario for the entire Ball family ever since Lonzo showed the first inklings of world-class talent. He was raised in Chino Hills, a suburb about 35 miles east of Staples Center, and LaVar Ball is an ardent fan of the Lakers – and specifically Magic Johnson, the Hall of Fame point guard now running their basketball operations.

After Ball worked out for the Lakers last week, he didn’t mince words about his hopes to make it permanent: “Of course. I want to stay home.”

Los Angeles and its sprawling suburbs have produced an incredible portion of the NBA’s top talent of recent years. All three MVP finalists this season – Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard – are from the area, as are Paul George, Klay Thompson, Tyson Chandler, DeMar DeRozan and many others.

Although the Lakers have been his family’s team since before he could walk, Ball said he hasn’t been to many games in person: “My dad didn’t like the seats, because I guess they were too small for him.”

That’s understandable, since father and son are both 6-foot-6. Lonzo watched on television and then emulated the stars from Magic to Kobe Bryant while playing with his brothers at home.

“I patterned my game after (Johnson),” Ball said. “My dad asked me what position I wanted to play. I told him, `Point guard.’ He was like, `All right, if you’re going to play point guard, you’ve got to get the ball up.”‘

That’s what Ball does better than almost any guard in recent college basketball history.

He led the nation in assists (7.7) while turning the Bruins into the highest-scoring team in Division I basketball. The freshman showed astonishing passing ability while orchestrating the UCLA offense, utilizing angles and defensive creases that made him look more like an attacking soccer midfielder than a basketball player.

And if any NBA team is worried about having the ultimate sports parent in the front row, UCLA coach Steve Alford has repeatedly said LaVar wasn’t a problem for him – and Lonzo’s two little brothers are both planning to play in Westwood.

Ball admits his father gives him unwanted notoriety. He also promises he can handle any distraction.

“That was said about me in college, said about me in high school,” he said. “I don’t think it affected me.”

Just a few days away from the decision, Ball still appears to be a splendid fit with the Lakers, whose up-tempo offense under coach Luke Walton looks tailor-made for Ball’s skills. The Lakers just completed the worst four-year stretch in franchise history, but their fans hope that another playmaking superstar will be their reward for the 16-time NBA champions’ misery.

Ball is one of those fans.

“They need a leader,” Ball said after working out for the Lakers recently. “They need a point guard, and I feel like I can fill that hole. … They said they want me to come in – if I get picked – come in and be a leader and play with a lot of pace. So the stuff they were saying was very positive, and it kind of fits my game.”

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.