In a rather shocking development, LaVar Ball is in the news again.
Philadelphia 76ers special adviser Jerry Colangelo told a local radio station that the people around UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball present a challenge for the team taking the likely top-two pick.
“I think Ball is a terrific prospect and could have an outstanding NBA future,” Colangelo told 94 WIP’s Carlin and Reese, via ESPN.com. “I think it’s going to be challenging with the people around him, without being specific.
“And yet, I don’t think teams should bypass the player because they have those concerns. At the end of the day, what wins in this league is talent, and this is a very talented young man.”
Colangelo didn’t get specific, but it’s pretty clear who he’s talking about. Lonzo’s bombastic father LaVar has made regular appearances on ESPN and FS1, boasting about how his son is better than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Stephen Curry, and roasting female co-hosts who dare disagree.
Of most concern to an NBA team, though, is likely LaVar’s handling of Lonzo’s shoe contract and their attempts to ensure he’s drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. The father demanded $1 billion from Nike, Under Armour or adidas, and once they turned him down, he unveiled a $495 pair of signature shoes. Then, when the Lakers landed the No. 2 pick, he upped his ask to $3 billion if his son landed in L.A.
Meanwhile, Lonzo claimed he’d rather play for the Lakers than be drafted No. 1 overall, before turning down a workout with the Boston Celtics (owners of the top pick). His father also suggested, “There’s nobody else we need to work out for,” besides the Lakers. That workout is expected to happen soon.
All of that seems reason enough that an NBA team could be concerned about how LaVar might meddle in his son’s contract negotiations, development and whatever other professional decisions arise down the line. On the other hand, rookie contracts are already set in certain parameters, and Lonzo will turn 20 years old before the start of the 2017-18 season, so presumably he can make his own decisions.
It’s important to note Colangelo did not suggest LaVar’s presence should prevent a team from drafting him, and even Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has said the family’s preference for L.A. and refusal to work out in Boston would not necessarily preclude them from drafting him. (Although, all signs point to the Celtics selecting Markelle Fultz with the pick they got from Brooklyn.)
Still, Colangelo is a four-time NBA Executive of the Year and has evaluated talent for more than 50 years. The former Phoenix Suns general manager served as director of USA Basketball for more than a decade and recently returned to the NBA as an adviser in Philadelphia, where his son Bryan was later named GM. His words carry some weight. So, while LaVar’s audaciousness may not be the news here, someone as high-profile as Colangelo openly acknowledging that challenge is certainly noteworthy.
Interestingly, the Sixers, who own the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, are the only team other than the Lakers reported to be in negotiations with the Balls for a workout. So, there’s also the chance the 76ers are motivated to convince the Lakers that LaVar is going to be too much of a challenge.
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