Lonzo Ball on pre-draft workout with Lakers: ‘It has to be the worst workout for a number two pick’

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Lonzo Ball – as close as there was to a consensus No. 2 prospect in the 2017 NBA draft – wanted to join the Lakers. When the Lakers landed the No. 2 pick, everything was seemingly falling into place. Ball just had to ace his workout.

He didn’t.

Ball looked out of shape, though it was unclear at the time whether those reports were just smokescreens. Ball passed his second workout, and the Lakers took him No. 2.

But that first workout really was that bad, according to Ball. Ball – who has since been traded to the Pelicans – provided all the ugly details, including meeting then-Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw.

Ball on LightHarted Podcast:

The workout with the Lakers was the worst workout I’ve ever had. Ever.

It has to be the worst workout for a number two pick. It has to. That’s how bad. It was terrible. They had to come to Chino to watch me work out again.

I was by myself. But I got sick, and I didn’t tell nobody. So, I had drank a whole bottle of codeine. I mean, not codeine, but cough syrup.

I couldn’t move. Ask B Shaw. B Shaw will tell you. He was like, “What the hell?” That was the first time I met B Shaw, and he was like, “I don’t think he it.” I could see it on his face. I would take two steps. I couldn’t dunk. They were like, “Get up.” I was like, “I can’t. I can’t dunk.”

I couldn’t move, bro. I’m like, “Damn.”

After the workout, I’m like, this ain’t – we’re going to have to do another one. We scheduled a second workout, and it was all good from there. But that first one, man. If those tapes ever get released, it’s bad. It’s real bad.

This should serve as a lesson for draft-eligible players. They don’t have to do workouts if not advantageous. The draft gives teams massive control over the process. Players should seize power wherever they can.

What would the Lakers have done if Ball postponed the workout? They might have griped, but they almost certainly would have attended the re-scheduled workout and drafted him. By trying to prove himself while sick, Ball risked not getting to his desired team.

There are probably Lakers fans who wish the team never granted Ball that second workout. Ball’s style – high on passing and defense, low on individual scoring and shooting – goes unappreciated. Yes, the Lakers could have drafted better players. But Ball still looks like a fine pick, especially considering what we knew at the time.

Ball impressed at UCLA. A single bad workout shouldn’t override that much larger sample.

Good process sometimes leads to bad results. I’d rather have good process in place. It’ll lead to good results more often.

But did the Lakers have a good process in place here? Lakers owner Jeanie Buss reportedly pushed Magic Johnson to draft Ball over De'Aaron Fox, who has turned out better. I wonder whether the Lakers were just going to give Ball as many workouts as he needed until he got one right.