It’s the middle of February, the sorrows of another long football offseason are upon us, and we have a few more weeks until the excitement of March Madness and tournament season reach full blast on our television screens. Why shouldn’t we speculate on more NBA rumor mills?
Yesterday I sat down after a few hours of work and decided to scroll through my usual source for sports takes to see what the happenings of the day were: Colin Cowherd. Known for his controversial beliefs on a variety of athletes and sports, I watched a five-minute segment on everyone’s favorite father in professional athletics: LaVar Ball. After hearing about the fact that Ball openly came out and said that if all three of his sons (Lakers point guard Lonzo, middle son LiAngelo and youngest son LaMelo) don’t get drafted by the Lakers he would make sure that Lonzo would not resign once his contract is up after four years in Los Angeles, Cowherd boldly declared that Magic Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka should be openly looking for sign and trade opportunities for the twenty year old phenom. In his mind, LaVar’s constant distraction towards a variety of team matters (playing time, disagreement with coach Luke Walton, members of the team who didn’t “mesh” with Lonzo) warranted that the team give up on their number-two pick in last year’s draft and emphasize on chasing big name free agents this upcoming summer.
Specifically perhaps the greatest basketball talent the league has ever seen: LeBron James.
I usually expect something very blinding like this to come from Cowherd, but this took me completely by surprise. How could you give away a generational talent (despite his underwhelming performance so far this season) just because of the opinions of his father?
There are millions of reasons why this decision to get rid of Lonzo and loudmouth LaVar for even the most remote chance at LeBron would make no sense, but here are just a few:
1. Lonzo is a generational talent.
There’s no denying it has been a tough year for the Lakers. 23-32, 11th place in the Western Conference, and the decision to get rid of two young, athletic and exciting players in Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson has completely shut the door on any opportunities for “real success” the rest of the way. Picking up a broken down, spiteful-at-the-world Isiah Thomas doesn’t help – and the Lakers still need to address a variety of needs in the front court if they ever want to become contenders. This certainly doesn’t mean you need to get rid of Lonzo Ball, though. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three to four years, you’ve seen flashes of just how amazing of a basketball player this guy truly is. His ability to set up teammates with shot opportunities is unparalled by any other player to come out of college in the past ten years, and some of the passes he makes force you step back and go “wow, this guy has some serious handles”. His shot needs work, but people forget that it was his passing ability that intrigued the likes of Magic Johnson – who is often regarded as the greatest passer in league history. Guys like that are a dime a dozen and providing him with more scoring (besides the likes of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma) could allow him to become the player we envisioned he would be watching him at UCLA last year and help the rest of the franchise grow alongside.
2. LeBron James coming to Los Angeles is far from certain at this point.
You can speculate all you want: “he has two homes in the city, he’s trying to expand his branding, he wants to be a part of the legacy”- cut that nonsense out. If LeBron is going somewhere at this point, he’s doing it for a chance to win a ring and prove people wrong. Yes, the Lakers trading Clarkson and Nance in order to save cap space for two max free agency deals this upcoming summer is an interesting development, but LeBron James isn’t going to leave his comfortable and secure trip to the finals in the Eastern Conference (I do believe the Cavaliers will roll over Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals) as well as his god-like status in Ohio for a few young scorers, Robin Lopez and a few other marginal players at best. Paul George has openly come out and said that he is happy in Oklahoma City playing alongside of Russell Westbrook, and I think removing Carmelo from the situation and giving that duo time to develop will make his situation just good enough that he will stay put. Kevin Durant isn’t leaving Golden State, Chris Paul won’t give up on his best shot to reach the Conference Finals, and the gruesome Achilles injury suffered by Demarcus Cousins severely diminishes his value. If LeBron takes a step back and looks at the landscape of the league, Los Angeles definitely should not be his first option on the table.
3. The Cavs just got a serious upgrade, and look much more attractive to LeBron.
The Cavs have always been a bit of a paradox: you have LeBron – a physical specimen who has seemingly never run into physical trouble over his 14 years in the league – and a bunch of aging, on the back-end former stars or role players that will run hard for the first two rounds of the playoffs but lose steam once the real challenges come up. This is the main justification for why general manager Koby Altman and the front office decided to get rid of players like Isiah Thomas, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose in order to pick up some fresh legs in time for the playoff run that we all know is coming. Clarkson and Nance were a steal from Los Angeles, and the addition of a truly talented, young scorer in Rodney Hood significantly bolstered the Cavaliers’ chances of competing with the Warriors come June. That’s without mention possibly the most important aquisition the franchise made: veteran point guard George Hill, who is the capable and experienced role player that the Cavs have been desperately starved for all season. Cleveland just reloaded in a big way and look a lot more attractive than a below average Lakers team with at least two more seasons until serious contention can be considered.
4. Where would you move him?
This morning I watched a clip from Rob Parker on FS1’s Undisputed (the desolate two hour period in which we can hear Skip Bayless say the most ludicrious things possible) that entailed him describing a variety of different locations that they could trade him – including places like Orlando and Milwaukee. While I am extremely biased and believe a combination of Lonzo and Giannis would be a truly incredible spectacle, very few other spots around the league make much sense. The Ball Family is all about a big market: they care just as much about how many shoes and sweatshirts they sell as they do about the game being played on the court. While some believe that Lonzo is a big enough name already that he would draw attention regardless of the market he played in, I just can’t picture a scenario where he is content to sit around in a place like Charlotte or Oklahoma City simply because his father disagrees with Magic Johnson. None of the other big market cities in the league, namely New York, would be able to offer anything in collateral for Lonzo except for the maimed unicorn that is Kristaps Porzingis – and significantly diminishes the chance that the Lakers pull the trigger on any move in the near future.
Bottom line: I think the Lakers need to grow up and ignore the ranting childish antics that LaVar provides on a now-weekly basis. You’ve got three years left with Lonzo in his current situation and a few other players like Ingram and Kuzma who can be built around in the next few drafts, not to mention boat-loads of cap space that you could put towards virtually anyone. Don’t throw away the chance to build a franchise for the next ten years on the uncertainty that the LeBron situation provides and make some more moves in the upcoming drafts to enable Lonzo to reach the level of dominance I and many other people around the nation believe is capable.
Maybe just have a chat with the media over in Lithuania – they might be able to shut LaVar up.