LaVar Ball on Luke Walton: “Nobody wants to play for him.”

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Ok, I’m just going to take a deep breath before we dive in here.

In.

Out.

Let’s get on with it.

During a recent interview with ESPN, LaVar Ball told Jeff Goodman that he thinks Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team and that, “Nobody wants to play for him.”

This goes against the wishes of the Lakers organization, who asked Ball to tone down his comments and criticisms of Walton and the team.

Ball based his opinion on players’ body language and that LA has lost nine straight games going into Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.

Via ESPN:

“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” Ball said from a spa resort in Birstonas, where he is staying while his two youngest sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, get ready to make their professional debuts with Lithuanian team Prienu Vytautas. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”

“That’s a good team,” he added of the Lakers, who have lost nine straight games. “Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”

Once Ball got on camera with Goodman, his tone seemed more conventional and his conviction lessened. Ball even went so far as to walk back on his comments — perhaps unintentionally — by saying, “The guys look like they don’t want to play. That’s what I see. They probably want to play for him as hard as they can.”

Yes, you read that quote correctly and it does not make sense.

Meanwhile, Walton was asked about Ball’s comments and said he felt his players were playing hard and that he was fine with Ball.

“My only concern with any of it is for Zo,” said Walton. “As long as Zo is fine with it, and Zo can come in and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, it doesn’t bother me at all.

This is detrimental to just about everyone involved. Ball was supposed to pull back on his criticism, a pipe dream that lasted a few weeks before waking to groggy reality.

The Lakers are bad and they were always going to be bad. This is still a growing year for their young players — including Lonzo Ball, who has some mixed stats and efficiency indicators — so LaVar Ball’s irritability with losing is a representation of his inability to judge context and performance in professional basketball.

Meanwhile, LaVar’s comments have come to irritate those outside the Lakers as well. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is head of the NBA coaches association, took umbrage to both LaVar’s opinions and that ESPN chose to give him a platform.

Via Star-Telegram:

“I view the recent ESPN article as a disgrace. ESPN is an NBA partner, and they’ve been a great one. But part of that partnership is that the coaches do a lot of things to help them with access, interviews, all those kinds of things. In exchange for that, they should back up the coaches. Printing an article where the father of an NBA player has an opinion that’s printed as anything like legitimate erodes trust.”

“I’m saying they should look at their sources and do a better job of determining whether they have any merit or any validity. Or are they just blowhard loudmouths?”

Carlisle taking issue with ESPN is an interesting thing to consider. On one hand, personal preference may dictate that some never want to see LaVar Ball utter another word about the NBA. His opinions aren’t valid, and instead are groundless observations by someone who is trying to shimmy his way up the ladder in order to improve his financial standing by profiting off of free marketing allowed by coverage of his bloviation.

Then again, newsworthiness isn’t defined by personal preference and, much to my chagrin, my own years working in journalism tells me that LaVar Ball’s comments are sometimes newsworthy. Whether what he says is valid or not doesn’t have complete bearing on whether it’s worth posting. The cult of personality around Ball still demands interest from readers, and so ESPN has reasonable right to publish what LaVar Ball says, pending editorial oversight.

Ball saying he could beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1 isn’t worth publishing. Ball explicitly criticizing the head coach of the Lakers after the team asked him not to and after they reinforced a rule banning reporters from the friends and family area at Staples Center probably is worth coverage.

Still, giving Ball carte blanche to speak without commentary from writers themselves — or offering response from those who Ball is talking about — is probably too far at this point. Ball’s opinions are often baseless, and without added expansion by writers, even relevant quotes from Ball devoid of context and expertise from reporters don’t carry a lot of weight.

Market saturation, coverage fatigue, and context determine whether something from the Ball family is printable at this juncture. I’m fully with Carlisle on exhaustion of LaVar Ball, as well as supportive of shielding Walton from unearned sniping from the peanut gallery. Most of what Ball says is complete nonsense, and so some outlets may be more selective than others in posting what he says.

Stepping aside from Carlisle’s comments on journalism best practices, the issue at hand is the continued haranguing of Walton by LaVar Ball. Walton is more important to the franchise (and has deeper roots) than Lonzo or LaVar Ball. The Lakers’ market presence would not suffer if the Balls were suddenly ejected from LA, especially if the team attracts big free agents this summer like Paul George or LeBron James.

It seems like we are at the precipice, about to see a larger issue peek over the horizon as the team deals with the Ball family. Why would a superstar franchise with potential superstar players want to deal with a loudmouth helicopter parent as they try to fight their way into championship contention in the coming years?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: LaVar Ball won. He got his son to the Lakers just as he wanted after UCLA. But he doesn’t realize it, and the more he keeps pushing the more marginalized he and his son will become in the Lakers organization.

Jayson Tatum’s NBA 2K19 rating is pretty eye-popping

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Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum had an excellent first season in the NBA. Here at PBT, we talked about how if the Celtics wanted to challenge in the East early on — especially without Gordon Hayward — they would need their young wing rotation to step up in a big way. They did, and Tatum was a big part of the reason the Celtics made the Eastern Conference Finals this year.

Now it appears that he is being rewarded by the folks over at 2K Games.

The people over at 2K Games release some of their ratings today, and Tatum came in at a whopping 87. If you aren’t familiar with the structure of the game, or what that means, the total score is out of a possible 99, making Tatum an excellent player.

Via Twitter:

Of course players like Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James scored a 98, so Tatum still has some room above him. As a general observation very good players rate somewhere between 79-85 during their rookie seasons.

Now the wait is on to see how fellow Rookie of the Year candidates Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons score when 2K Games releases their ratings.

Dallas’ Liz Cambage sets WNBA single-game scoring record with 53-point game (VIDEO)

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When you score more than half your team’s points, you’ve owned the game.

Dallas Wings’ center Liz Cambage scored a WNBA single-game record 53 points — on just 22 shots — in the Wings’ 104-87 win over the Liberty Tuesday. The previous record had been Riquna Williams with 51 points in 2013. Cambage hit 17–of–22 from the field including 4–of–5 from three (she was 5-of-23 from three in her NBA career before today), and knocked down 15-of-16 from the free throw line. She also had 10 rebounds and blocked five shots.

It was a monster performance. How big:

Cambage, an Australian native, had two interesting seasons with Tulsa in the WNBA back in 2011 and 2013 — she was an All-Star in 2011 but did not return to the NBA after the 2012 Olympics. She had a strong 2013 season, but then walked away from the WNBA (she had said when drafted she didn’t want to be in Tulsa).

She sat out of the WNBA for five years, until returning this season and is putting up big numbers in Dallas — 19.9 points per game on 57 percent shooting plus pulling down 9.1 rebounds per game. She’s a 6’8″ physical force in the league that few if any teams have an answer for.

But nobody saw this huge breakout game coming.

What a great showcase for the WNBA, especially leading up to the league’s All-Star Game July 28.

Lakers’ Josh Hart wins Summer League MVP

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The Lakers wanted to test Josh Hart this summer: What would happen if they gave him a more substantial role? He was solid as a backup point guard last season (a good showing for a rookie), averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent from three, but with Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo in the fold point guard minutes will be hard to come by next season.

What happened if they put the ball in Hart’s hands and made him the leader of a team on and off the court?

Hart responded by winning the NBA Las Vega Summer League MVP, averaging 24.2 points a game and leading the Lakers to the championship game. He dropped 37 on the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton in the semi-finals.

The award was announced Tuesday, in advance of the title contest between Hart and his Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hart is the second Laker in a row to win the award, last year Lonzo Ball won it in leading the Lakers to a Summer League crown.

It’s an honor, but don’t assume Summer League MVP means NBA success. Sure, Damian Lillard won the award, but he was co-MVP with Josh Shelby. Glen Rice III won the award. The MVP list includes Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones and other good but not All-Star players.

Hart also made the All-NBA Summer League first team. (Both the MVP award and All-NBA Summer League teams were voted on by a select media pannel.)

Here are the Las Vegas All Summer League teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago)
Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers)
Kevin Knox (New York)
Collin Sexton (Cleveland)
Christian Wood (Milwaukee)

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
Wade Baldwin IV (Portland)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Los Angeles Lakers)
Trae Young (Atlanta)

Report: Jahlil Okafor, still trying to land contract, works out for four teams in Vegas

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Jahlil Okafor was never going to find a new home early in free agency. Once the big names — and second tier, and third tier— names shook out, then some team was expected to step forward with a minimum contract and see if the former No. 3 pick could find a role on their team. Something he could not do with the Nets last year.

He’s still waiting.

Okafor did work out for teams in Las Vegas, to show that he is healthy and can contribute, reports Sean Deveny of The Sporting News.

According to sources, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, worked out for four teams last Wednesday in Las Vegas, and remains hopeful of signing with a team ahead of training camp next fall.

Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie in Philadelphia in 2015-16. He has spent the last few months working out in Miami with trainers David Alexander and Idan Ravin, fueling speculation that he could land with the Heat, especially if Miami finds a trading partner for Hassan Whiteside.

First things first, it’s unlikely the Heat will find someone to take on Whiteside right now, and any team that does is going to want a treasure chest of sweeteners the Heat may not want to surrender.

In addition to the Heat, the Bulls and Pacers have been rumored to have some interest, although both of those should be taken with a serious grain of salt.

How much is any team interested? Enough to even offer a fully guaranteed contract for next season?

Maybe not. Okafor — with his old-school, below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, not to mention a serious lack of defense — does not fit the direction the NBA is trending with bigs. He may need to accept a non-guaranteed invite to training camp somewhere and prove he deserves a roster spot. Humbling, to be sure, but reality.

At some point, some team will give him a shot. Probably. But Okafor has a lot of work to do to find a role in the modern NBA.