Lucky Number 27

 

The Lakers aren’t historically known for building through the draft, as they’d usually reload rather than rebuild. But consecutive years among the west’s bottom dwelling teams plus a few years pushing the odds in the lottery forces you to adapt. And as blessed as they are with consecutive top 2 picks, the Lakers have drafted exceptionally well in the later stages of the draft, a refreshing new focus in regards to valuing picks, whether it’s a lottery pick or a 2nd rounder. As good as the scouting department is, luck has played just as much a role, and maybe even more.

Since 1989, the Lakers selected at #27 a total of 5 times, making it the most frequent position the Lakers have selected in during the modern NBA draft process. And over the years, 27 has proven to be a lucky number, as each pick turned out to have a pivotal role for the franchise.

1990: Elden Campbell

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Ushering in the post Showtime era, the Lakers of the early 90s, much like the present, consisted of a core young, talented players. The trio of Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Campbell brought joy and entertainment to a fanbase that was otherwise, mourning the premature retirement of Laker legend Magic Johnson. And as the 27th pick, Campbell brought great value as the team’s starting Power Forward for 7 of the 9 seasons he spent in Los Angeles. Standing at 6″11 with a strong mid range game as well as skills in the post, he was the classic, prototypical NBA 4 that fit in well with the team. Before being ultimately traded to the Charlotte Hornets to make room for Robert Horry, he helped the team reach the playoffs every year, with the lone exception being the 93-94 season. Though his LA teams never won a ring, and was more commonly remembered as a transition era to Kobe-Shaq Lakers Dynasty, he would eventually win a ring at the expense of Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.

Though he may not be at the same caliber as most of the Lakers’ storied big men, Campbell still came in and averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks all in 25 minutes per game in his 9 years in LA, putting on great performances like the one against Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks in a double overtime game during the 96-97 season. Ewing put up 35 points and 25 rebounds while Campbell put 40 and 10 of his own.

2002: Kareem Rush

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During the 2002 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected Chris Jefferies with the 27th overall pick and whose draft rights was later traded for the draft rights of Kareem Rush. After concluding 3 years of consistent improvement via college basketball in Missouri, 3 years where he averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 44% shooting from the field and 42% from distance at 30 minutes a night, Jefferies ended up having a relatively short NBA career. While he didn’t score in the pros the way he did in college, Jefferies still had a memorable moment on the court as a member of the Lakers. Thanks to his three point shooting, he was able to earn a good 14 minutes a game during the Lakers playoff run in 2004, and while they would eventually lose to the Pistons in the Finals, Jefferies put on a pivotal performance just a round prior.

In the series clinching sixth game against Kevin Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Jefferies torched the opposition with six threes, hitting a couple of long distance shots during a tight contest late in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 18 points, on 6/7 shooting, playing his role in putting the Lakers atop the rest of the west, and having an opportunity, once again, to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

2004: Sasha Vujacic

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In June of 2004, the Lakers walked away from draft night selecting sharpshooter Sasha Vujacic who played in the Italian basketball league the year prior. Truth be told, they knew what they were going to get with Vujacic: an three point marksman who can knockdown open shots. What they didn’t anticipate was they were also drafting the man who famously calls himself, “The Machine”.

While he never got to play huge minutes for the Lakers (a career 14.3 minutes per game in his 7 seasons with LA), Vujacic endeared himself to the fans, with his hard-nosed and scrappy type of play. He was never a great defender, but he works hard out on the court and would consistently irritate the opposing match-up and was highly successful at it. Just don’t think you could do the same to “The Machine” and walk away unscathed.

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I believe it’s also worth noting that playing for the a franchise like the purple and gold elevated his own personal brand. He was with the team in the early 2000s, standing in the corner as he watched Kobe take triple and quadruple teams on a nightly basis, biding his time and ultimately showing everyone on a national level who Sasha Vujacic was as the Lakers rose back to prominence later on. After barely even playing in the 2010 playoffs at all, he was subbed in for Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the hated rival Boston Celtics to ice the game, calmly sinking in two picture perfect free throws. At that moment, he epitomized what a role player is: a player that not only comes in to fulfill a specific task, bu also comes in prepared to maximize the opportunity given to him, all in the name of the team.

2015: Larry Nance Jr.

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A more recent 27th pick, Larry Nance Jr. has already made a name for himself in his two seasons in the league. Son of former Slam Dunk Champion and NBA legend Larry Nance Sr., Nance Jr. has hops that rival that of his father, and maybe even better. Dunking is not all the young power forward is good at though, as he displays a maturity and discipline out on the court that is much more polished than the other young bucks on the Lakers today.

While Larry’s Laker career didn’t exactly get off to a great start thanks to a not-so-friendly tweet concerning an NBA/Laker legend,

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I think it’s safe to say the fans have forgotten all about this little bump in the road, as Lakernation clearly considers him a favorite. Always looking to make the right play, whether it’s the extra pass, the discipline to help on defense or the hustle plays to get the boards or loose balls, Larry has proven himself on the court and inspired a change of heart in a fanbase that was ready to rip his head off after digging through his twitter feed.

With tons of room to grow and an inevitable frontcourt jam heading into the season, Larry Nance Jr. must prove himself once again that he has just as bright a future as the rest of the young core. He’s certainly building quite the resume to back that up…

His welcome to the NBA (preseason) moment:

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The one where he graciously baptizes David West and proceeds to end him, all in one gif.

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And of course, the classic, “Dunked on him so hard he became my teammate”.

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2017: Kyle Kuzma

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And last but certainly not least, the team’s most recent draft pick, Kyle Kuzma. After draft night, many among Lakernation (including myself) were scratching their heads when the 27th pick was called. Everybody had the same question in mind: “Who is Kyle Kuzma?” After summer league though, Kuzma gave fans more than enough reason to remember his name.

After three seasons playing NCAA basketball for Utah, the young forward showcased just how goo he is as a dynamic stretch 4. His combination of shooting, transition scoring and smart passing make him the ideal fit in Luke Walton’s system. He also showed great competitive edge when he had got matched up with guys like 3rd overall pick Jayson Tatum, proving himself serviceable in 1-on-1 coverage. Seeing him run the wings in transition and catching full- court touchdown passes from Lonzo Ball might be a sight we’ll be seeing for years to come. Coming away with Summer League Finals MVP and averaging 21.9 PPG, 6.4 REB, 2.7 APG, 1.1 STL, 1.4 BLK on 51.4% FG, he’ll surely command minutes, seeing as he’s the only viable stretch 4 the team can rely on at this point.

If they don’t get a jumpshot soon, Nance Jr. and Julius Randle may very well lose some of their minutes to the up and coming Kyle Kuzma – the Lakers newfound gem at number 27.

Building through the draft has been a popular strategy for NBA teams in recent years. With the value of draft picks sky rocketing significantly in this modern era, it’s pivotal for a team’s front office to exercise its due diligence and maximize a pick based on its position on the board.

In all honesty, sports drafts are glorified crapshoots, and the NBA’s no different. There’s so many variables in play that player evaluation doesn’t always rest upon a prospect’s college career, and banking on potential to translate in the pros will never be a sure-fire endeavor. With that said, many teams have had great luck in the draft, and the Lakers have certainly been nothing short of magic at number 27.

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The All-NBA Accessory Team: Iconic Player Contributions to On-Court Swag

Part of what makes the NBA great is the abundance of individuality. The players are given the freedom to express themselves both on and off the court in ways not many sports leagues cater to. You could literally be anyone and still build up your brand. Either you’re the first pick in the draft or an undrafted free agent, once you step on the court, all eyes are on you. Some are famous solely for their game, others are notorious for their personal image and a select few are remembered for both. Without a helmet to conceal their faces like the NFL, we instantly recognize a player and what they look like from head to toe.

As prominent as NBA fashion is over the years, players also carry the swag ( or for some, a lack thereof) on the hardwood, with accessories that not only aid in elevating their game (and for some of these guys, I hope that’s the case), but also express who they are as individuals. Through the NBA’s rich history I’ve put together the All-NBA Accessory Team, compiling players that built their brand through not just their game, but also their expression of individuality on the court and the hustle to push the culture forward.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Carmelo Anthony – Doin’ Too Much

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Sometimes more is less, and that bodes true on a number of levels when it comes to Melo. I distinctly remember a time when Melo kept it simple with one arm sleeve, and a headband to compliment his sweet cornrows back in the Denver Nuggets days. Fast forward to his tenure in New York and you’d pause to ask, “are all those accessories necessary?” Please, somebody tell me it is, because I cannot possibly figure out how you move in all that clothing, not to mention score points the way Melo has all these years. I think it’s safe to say Melo’s over accessorizing rivals only his volume shooting.

Stay Me7o on the accessories, Mr. Anthony.

The D-Band

D BAND

What the hell is this.

I guess it’s only fitting that Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, endorsed such a legendary product, so legendary in fact that most call it a myth, as it never graced an NBA game.

Looking like a headband on most nights (it’d have to be really dark for you to even call it a band) or something a sumo wrestler to cover up their lower extremities for some, the D-Bands are described as “an extension of the headband & cap that are both fashionable & functional for today’s sports enthusiast.”, according to their IG account.

Say what you want about these head wedgies, but one thing’s for certain, the NBA and us fans were robbed of the D-Band spectacle, but at the very least, it deserves an honorable mention.

6th MAN:

Chris Anderson: The Human Coloring Book

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The NBA has its fair share of colorful personalities, and more often than not these kind of guys go on the list of guys you absolutely DO NOT cross, at any given time. Chris “Birdman” Anderson is for damn sure on that list, and it’s not hard to see why. You know when you leave your 3 year old with his/her crayon alone in the living room, you’re for sure going to find countless, unwanted random doodles all over your walls. Chris Anderson is your living room wall, and just the sight of this man is enough to intimidate anyone. Couple his imposing image with rough and scrappy style of play and you’ve got an instant fan favorite that many fans gravitate to.

STARTERS:

Wilt Chamberlain – Headbands

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Many regard Wilt Chamberlain as the first true dominant force in the league. “Wilt The Stilt” contributed a lot to the game of basketball. From establishing the significance of a dominant 5 to writing the record books in his own name, the NBA and basketball in general owe a lot to the Big Dipper. You could tack on the use of the headband to his long list of contributions. It wouldn’t be difficult to spot a 7 foot giant on the court, but the headband only added further swag to his dominance. Since then many players started using headbands.

Some tried to add their own twist to it,

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others went a little overboard.

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while a few turned out to be pretty damn good basketball players donning the headband,

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and at one point, it was also used to cover up receding hairlines, I might add. (Sorry, I had to do it.)

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

But the next time you see greatness wearing elastic fabric on their domes, just know that “The Big Dipper” made it cool first.

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Horace Grant – The Bespectacled One

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With the amount of players that have come and gone in the league, it’s impossible to remember every single one. Players often rely on their game to create memories for their fans, harping on their individual performances to carve their place in the game’s history.

This is how we evaluate the all time greats, and for the most part that’s not a long list, as great talent doesn’t necessarily equate to transcendent talent. But it’s also true that a select few will forever be remembered not only by their game, but how they looked playing the game, and Horace Grant checks off both boxes as one of the core players, along MJ and Scottie, in the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat all while donning his iconic googles.

With the NBA reaching new highs in popularity during the 90s (thanks in large part to the league’s extending reach across the globe), and the Chicago Bulls almost always featured in the Finals, players like Grant were sure to get attention, and his unique accessory certainly helped familiarize the public with goggles, and why it’s okay to ball out bespectacled if it means you get to win three straight championships.

Grant wasn’t the first don eye wear on the court, as legends like George Mikan

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and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also rocked a pair,

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while Kurt Rambis’ trademark large square glasses completed the hard-nosed, scrappy role player persona Rambis played on the Showtime Lakers.

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But in an era where technology was progressing to aid global commercialization of the league, Grant popularized the goggles and remains to this day, the most recognized player to have worn the signature specs.

Dennis Rodman – Just Dennis Being Dennis

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I could honestly make a completely different list of ridiculous NBA hairstyles (and it so deserves a list of its own), but nobody quite pulled it off like Dennis Rodman. Remember when we talked about the NBA’s many “colorful” personalities? Dennis Rodman is the whole freakin’ rainbow with a few lucky charms to boot. Notorious for both his on-cout and off-court antics, Rodman’s personality may only be rivaled by his embodiment of the junkyard dog, leading the league in rebounding for several years while standing at just 6″6! The iconic image of himself he portrayed on the court was only an added accessory to his notoriety. The NBA has been blessed with crazy hairstyles over the years, but if one thing remains constant, it’s that Rodman is the champion of NBA hair.

Some came close,

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some tried to come close,

(“Holdat” L, Carlos.)

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but no one did it quite like “The Worm”.

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Rip Hamilton – Hoops Superhero

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After suffering a through a broken nose (twice!), to avoid further damage and necessary nasal surgery, Rip Hamilton was advised to wear a face mask. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

That face mask became THE face mask of the association, as Hamilton never played a game without it ever again. And after winning the NBA Finals, upsetting the Lakers in 5 games, Rip Hamilton entered public conscience as the masked shooting guard who went toe-to-toe with a young, rising star in Kobe Bryant.

Rarely do we see an athlete  as synonymous to an accessory as Rip Hamilton is, but having one of the most unique looks on the hardwood makes anyone take notice of you, and Hamilton’s game only elevated his status as one of the games stars even further, making a name for himself as the masked man in a solid core of “non-superstars” that brought Detroit a title. I honestly feel like, unless you’re a Pistons fan or diehard hoops junkie, you wouldn’t recognize Rip Hamilton walking down the streets without his facemask, which testifies to the power of an accessory in building an athlete’s persona brand.

Now whenever we see guys ball out on the court with a facemask on ala Kobe Bryant,

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

or dominate ever facet of the game like LeBron James,

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or even break unbreakable records like Russell Westbrook’s triple double frenzy this past season,

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls

we get that feeling of a superhero, putting all his talents on display and busting every move in his arsenal to carry the weight of adversity and responsibility, and lead his people to victory. This is a feeling we first felt with Pistons legend, and more importantly, NBA Champion Richard Hamilton, who will forever be credited for the facemask.

Too bad it doesn’t make all of us look like superheroes…

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Allen Iverson – A Man of Culture

AI Shooting sleeve

We all know who Allen Iverson is, and his countless contributions to the game as we know it is a list that solidifies his status as a Hall of Famer. From the large, crisp white T-shirts, baggie jeans and durags he wore during pressers and the tattoos and cornrows that completed the look of “The Answer” on the court, Iverson was culture personified for the NBA, and who embodied who he is as a person and owned it proudly both on and off the court.

The influence A.I. had on his peers and on the generations to follow is prominent to this day, from the countless tattoo you see on an NBA players arms, to the intricate cornrows they have on their heads, A.I. pushed the limits early in the 2000s and in turn pushed the culture to the forefront, with global, professional sports league as his platform. The iconic arm sleeve he contributed to on court swag remains the most prominent piece of accessory in the game today.

The game’s biggest stars today have worn an arm sleeve, even delivering masterful and legendary performances in the process.

Whether it was a game saving shot,

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or a pivotal chase down block,

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or even one last gamer to cap off not just a retirement tour, but a legendary 20 year career on a 60 point final game,

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all these pictures wouldn’t be complete without the arm sleeve. Some people call it the shooting sleeve, but I refuse to do so unless guys like Andre Roberson cease to wear one. But such is the influence of a legend like Allen Iverson to have everyone and anyone wear something that he wore and made famous with masterful games of his own.

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The shooting sleeve is now a staple in today’s game, and in a small way we have Allen Iverson to thank for these iconic pictures because it wouldn’t be complete without him creating the look first. Salute to A.I., a true man of culture.

As for my final thoughts, every one of these players on the all-accessory team are innovators in their own right, not because they decided to wear simply wear an article of clothing on the court, or decided to draw on their bodies with permanent ink or change up their hairstyles. They’re innovators because they took it upon themselves to stand out, embrace their individuality and create a lasting image of themselves that will remain with us forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Lakers Early Free Agent Targets

 

The Los Angeles Lakers have spoken to free agents Andre Iguodala and Rajon Rondo, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN also adds Ben McLemore to the list of players the Lakers have recently reached out to early in this free agency period.

This is an interesting group of players the team has reached out to early in the offseason. Veterans Iguodala and Rondo would add a lot of experience to a young team, but the price Iguodala is fishing for right now and will likely get doesn’t really match Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s offseasons plans this year. As for Rondo, who does have a bring baggage along with him to any locker room, as well as his limitations as an outside shooter doesn’t exactly match the vision and system the organization is trying to build.

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McLemore though, is a young player who has nice size at 6″5 in the SG position and has the ability to stretch to floor with his jumpshot. Mostly an inconsistent player throughout his career so far, he’d be a low risk-high reward signing for the Lakers, as they could see for themselves how much of McLemore shortcomings were on him or simply just because of playing fro the Kings. They don’t cough up too much money thereby upholding their promise of keeping their cap space “sacred.”

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Other notable free agents the Lakers could still target to address needs such as outside shooting and defense who are available (for now) are: Aaron Afflalo, Robert Covington, Tyreke Evans, Reggie Bullock and Ian Clark to name a few.

Paul George Traded to OKC: What It Means For The Lakers

Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City after being traded for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

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After many rumors of different teams getting involved in the Paul George sweepstakes (Cleveland, Boston, LA, Washington), the Oklahoma City Thunder swooped in and flipped an atrocious Oladipo contract all by just including a young prospect in Sabonis in his rookie deal.

And they did so without giving up any draft picks!

What does this mean for the Lakers though? It means we’re still very much in the running for George next summer. Now some might argue, “why would he leave a contender in OKC for a rebuilding team in the Lakers?”.

Without a doubt, the Thunder are a playoff team. But in a stacked western conference, is anyone, outside of Thunder fans, really picking them to come out of the west? Last time I checked, Russell Westbrook was once paired with superstar small forward, and it didn’t exactly turn into a championship. Plus, the Warriors and the Spurs still play on the same conference, so while it’s still possible, it’s unlikely George commits long term with the Thunder when multiple reports have indicated that he will only sign an extension if the team a) wins a title or b) is the Lakers.

Westbrook, a superstar talent himself and current reigning league MVP, could very well convince George to stay in Oklahoma City. But the same could be said about George, who also has one full year to convince Westbrook of joining him to come back to their hometown: LA.

With Chris Paul joining the Rockets with James Harden, Jimmy Butler joining the young core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and now George teaming up with Westbrook, the almighty west just got a whole lot better. With the All Star Game set to be played in LA, and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss openly saying that she wants an all star to represent her team, it’s doubtful that an all star is selected from the Lakers current roster.

Overall, this trade has the whole league shook, and probably set off a domino effect that will continue to fall through summer ’18 and beyond.

Lakers Exercise Team Option, Bring Back David Nwaba

The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their team option to bring back shooting guard David Nwaba.

Nwaba was called up last year from the team’s D-League affiliate Los Angeles D-Fenders (now known as the South Bay Lakers for the G League) and played in the final 20 games for the team. In 20 games the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product averaged 6.0 points per game and 3.1 rebounds on 58% shooting from the field while proving to be one of the ball clubs better defenders. His defensive prowess, coupled with his athleticism would look tremendous alongside new backcourt mate Lonzo Ball and at just 24 years old, there’s still a lot of room to grow, particularly as a shooter.

After two 10 day contracts with the team, Nwaba has proven his value to the team as a competitor and a workhorse, and his potential as two way player has ultimately landed him a contract with the team. And with a current backcourt devoid of defense, look for Nwaba to be a key piece for next year’s roster.

Rumor: Paul George Recruiting Klay Thompson to the Lakers?

The rumor mill has us constantly refreshing our Twitter timelines in hopes of getting hit with Woj bomb to satisfy our NBA needs. NBA Twitter has gone spinning once again as rumors of Lakers recruitment have surfaced, this time involving two hometown talents.

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Former NBA player and radio show host Keleena Azubuike of 95.7 The Game got the scoop, saying that George has reached out to Thompson and has declared his interest in playing together for the purple and gold.

First of, I would be extremely happy if even one of those players end up with the Lakers. But both of them playing with the young core that we have now would catapult the Lakers into playoff contention. The chances of this pairing happening though, may not be as high as some Lakers fans think.

While the ties to Southern California are there, if you were Thompson, you’d be hard pressed to leave such a good situation on Golden State. Winning championships is the ultimate goal, and in a system like the Warriors where everyone gets fair share of the ball and everyone gets to have their moments, it will be tough to pass out on a winning environment in a current LA team that’s still unproven. Mychal Thompson said as much on his radio show “Thompson and Trudell” for ESPN radio, as well as ESPN insider Ramona Shelburne about the potential George-Thompson pairing in LA.

George recruiting Thompson may not necessarily mean they’re aiming to play together this season, or even next as Klay isn’t a free agent until 2019. And as of today, George is still an Indiana Pacer, and until a trade happens, he will likely still be a Pacer on opening night.

That’s not to say that it isn’t possible. With a stacked roster like the Warriors, keeping a core of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would require A LOT of dollars to keep all of them happy. Even perennial 6th man of the year candidate Andre Iguodala might prove to be a difficult talent to keep, as a number of teams have expressed interest in the veteran forward’s services, even if it’s mixed with a few ulterior motives.

But maybe that team from the Bay is more than just about money. If they continue winning in such dominant fashion as they have and win a few more rings to show for it, maybe everyone will be happy. The culture they’ve built is not something to overlook, because as of right now, anyone who wants to win and have fun while winning would willingly take a pay cut to be a Warrior (see: Zaza Pachulia/David West).

All I’m saying is, anything’s possible. As the summer continues to roll along, all of the smoke would eventually clear, and whatever was real in all these rumors would inevitably show itself, all in due time.

This is going to be one hell of an Offseason.

Everyone Wants Paul George

As the NBA offseason prepares to kick into full gear with the start of free agency just a few days away, there has not been shortage of rumors for star players finding a new home and a new franchise to play for. Paul George has been front and center of all the rumor talks, and it seems as though his list of suitors continue to pile as we approach July 1st.

And in what seems like an offseason tradition, the Los Angeles Lakers are once again in the discussion of potentially landing a superstar. Whether a star like George does indeed end up with the Lakers is still questionable, as a few teams feel like they have more to offer than Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office, and thus pose as a real threat to acquire a valuable talent like the Indiana star.

One of those teams is the Washington Wizards. Marc J. Spears of ESPN reports that franchise point guard John Wall is recruiting George in hopes of challenging LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, saying that they are “one piece away” from dethroning the King of the East.

“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man [Otto Porter Jr.] did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …

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“You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”

While Wall’s assessment of George’s addition to the rising Wizards is certainly not wrong, the means to acquire him may not be totally there. If the desire is to add George with the tandem of Wall and Bradley Beal, who are the Wizards giving up in return that would incline the Pacers to agree on a deal? Otto Porter, who’s maybe their next best asset is currently a restricted free agent, and George still has 1 year left on his contract before being able to sign with any team outright. That’s not an option until 2018. So while they can entice George to join a contender, it’s unlikely Washington could sway the Pacers into taking a package revolving around Marcin Gortat.

With Cleveland still clear obstacle for every eastern conference team, expect a lot of players follow Wall’s example and be in full recruitment mode leading up to and during free agency.

Speaking of Cleveland…

ESPN’s Marc Stein just dropped a major Stein bomb this weekend reporting that a three team deal involving Cleveland, Indiana and Denver swapping a couple of all stars, some multi year contracts, and a few young prospects.

Other pieces involved in this three team blockbuster were Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Emmanuel Mudiay, per ESPN.

After getting destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, the Cavaliers seem to be very aggressive in landing another superstar in hopes of challenging the powerhouse from the Bay and also convince their franchise player, LeBron James to stay beyond this year. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, LeBron James has an eye on Los Angeles once he becomes a free agent next year, where can choose to opt out of his current contract.

Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center. The Lakers make sense if LeBron wants to build a sustainable winner with a core blend of veterans and youthful talent like Paul George — if, as NBA gossip suggests, George truly is “hell-bent” on going to L.A. — and Brandon Ingram. The Clippers make sense if LeBron wants to form a Banana Boat Voltron with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. 

This may very well be what has sparked the sense of urgency of in Cleveland’s front office, but after falling out of negotiations with GM David Griffin, the Cavs aren’t looking too good in James’ eyes. With the threat of a banana boat rendezvous happening in Los Angeles, are locked in on Geroge, especially after losing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. Them landing George is huge question mark though, as Pacers president Kevin Pritchard is determined to get a get a good return in any deal involving their star forward.

Whatever James’ intentions are, the last thing Dan Gilbert and the rest of Cleveland want to see is their franchise player, the hometown hero, to leave again and form a superteam in Los Angeles, as NBA Chaos monger Rob Perez explains here.

This leaves us with the team that has probably the most assets the Pacers would be interested in getting back for a superstar of Paul George’s caliber.

Enter Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics.

Until the very end of time, the Celtics prove to be the supreme rival for the purple and gold, this time as a competitor for the superstar’s services. From Indiana’s standpoint, there’s no doubt the Celtics could offer them the most attractive package. A combination of picks, young players and valuable role players would certainly help Indiana in an inevitable rebuild once they part with their star player. After drafting  Jayson Tatum this year and Jaylen Brown this year, all while veteran Jae Crowder still a vital cog in coach Brad Stevens’ system, the Celtics have overloaded depth on the SF position, and a package centered around one of their young players plus the picks they got from the 76ers trade makes it more appealing for Pritchard to pull the trigger on a trade.

Rumors have also surfaced of a free agency plan that would help convince Paul George into becoming a leprechaun, who up until this point, has made it clear that his preference is to be a Laker. According to Adrian Wojnarowski per the The Vertical, the Celtics are confident that they can pry away the LA native from playing for their longtime rival.

The Celtics have a growing confidence they could sign George to a contract extension, and keep him from leaving to his predetermined free-agent destination of the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told The Vertical. Boston’s belief that it can make George more than a one-year rental is fueling the franchise’s willingness to part with a significant package of assets, league sources said.

How you ask? By signing Gordon Haywayd, after an outstanding year where Utah saw it lay claim to it’s first All Star since the Deron Williams era, Boston plans to convince George that a core of him, Hayward, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas can usurp the Cavs.

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

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With the assets Ainge has at his disposal, it won’t be hard to imagine a core 4 of those players spelling trouble for the rest of the league.

After a three year stretch of excellence and a recent run of postseason of dominance, the Golden State Warriors got the whole league shook. So shook in fact, that it has set off an NBA offseason so chaotic that you doubt whether you can call it an “offseason”. Paul George will continue to be the hot topic of any rumor for the majority of the summer, and until a deal is made, pressure remains in the inexperienced front office of the Lakers, as Paul George to the Lakers may run into more than a few stops on the road and ultimately settle there.

For all of Lakers Nation, losing out on George would be a travesty. But having to watch him parade around with leprechauns would be an absolute nightmare.

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Lakers NBA Draft ’17 Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers came away from Brooklyn, New York with draft night that has a lot of fans excited for the future. Spearheaded by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in their first draft as a NBA front office, the Lakers added a handful of young talent that would surely make this year’s Summer League something to look forward to once again.

At the #2 slot, the team got their guy in Lonzo Ball, effectively ushering in the Ball era in Los Angeles. The Big Baller Brand was well represented in the ceremonies, as ESPN gave an ample amount of screen time to the Big Baller himself, LaVar Ball, who as of Thursday night, has spoken the Ball dream into existence. Hoops fans around the world were treated to more than a few classic LaVar promos.

Ball wasn’t the only rookie picked by the purple and gold that night, as the team made some moves that ended with the team acquiring a total of 4 draft picks on the night. they flipped their 28th pick to the Utah Jazz and received picks 30 and 42.

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With the 27th pick, the Lakers selected Kyle Kuzma, a junior from Utah. Potentially a versatile power forward in the NBA level, the 21 year old measures in at 6″9 with a 7″0 wingspan, is capable of scoring in transition and is more than comfortable running the floor in an open court offense. His shot does need some work, but Kuzma has the potential to be serviceable stretch 4 in the league if he can overcome consistency issues on his mechanics. So far, the kid seems to happy to be a Laker.

For the last pick of the first round, the Lakers selected Josh Hart from Villanova. While not as young as most of his peers in the draft, the shooting guard’s four years in a winning program along with his skills as a shooter and competitiveness as a defender suggests that he can contribute right away in the NBA level.

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Averaging 18 points a game at 57% clip and 40% shooting from deep he projects to help a team devoid of any real outside threats, and his physical profile at 6″6 with a 6″8 wingspan will help him possibly cover 1-3 positions defensively.

Thanks to the maneuvering of the front office, the team also got to pick in the second round, which initially they weren’t supposed to. They selected 19 year old Center Thomas Bryant from Indiana. As a 42nd pick, Bryant looks to be a nice find late in the draft, as he has a serviceable jump shot that can stretch all the way from beyond the arc and a high motor that allowed him to average 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes and his length at 6″10 with a 7″6 wingspan permits him to block 2.2 shots per 40 min. He does have mobility issues at his size which poses questions about how serviceable he can be in the pros, but his youth leaves a lot of room for him to grow and his fulfill his potential as a valuable stretch 5.

Thomas Bryant

As the draft itself concluded, the Lakers were not quite done adding rookies to the squad. ESPN reports that South Carolina guard P.J. Dozier signed a free agent contract with the Lakers.

While going undrafted shows some concerns as to how Dozier’s game, as it is quite raw at this stage, will translate to the  next level, he shows potential as playmaker and an athletic finisher off the dribble. Measuring in at 6″6 with shoes and a 6″11 wingspan at the NBA draft combine, he is an oversized guard, who if he can develop a reliable jumpshot and rounds out his playmaking skills, can become a mismatch for the rest of the league who would thrive in Luke Walton’s offense. Details of his contract are still a mystery, but us fans can be certain that he will be able to showcase his talents in the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League, along the other young talented rookies and second year guys from the Lakers.

PJ Dozier

The Lakers came out of Brooklyn with a very solid draft that looked to primarily address the team’s shooting needs, in hopes of implementing an open floor type of play with a heavy emphasis on ball movement and team defense. After watching film on these new crop of rookies, and after hearing from Magic and Pelinka themselves in a recent press conference, these guys  keep the ball moving and play a disciplined and mature game of basketball.

The team intends to build around Ball as the new face of the Lakers, and it did so by drafting what they claim as complimentary pieces late in the draft that will help the new Lakers point guard set the table and bring Showtime back to Hollywood.

Lakers Trade D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov To Nets For Brook Lopez And 27th Pick

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The Los Angeles Lakers have traded second year point guard D’Angelo Russell and veteran Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in this year’s draft, according to a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

After clearing the rubble of what is currently the biggest Woj bomb of this crazy NBA offseason, the Lakers have managed to liberate themselves from the monster contract worth over $15M for the next three years while taking in Brook Lopez whose contract expires after this year and also getting 27th pick, bringing their total of draft pick for this year up to three (Along with #2 and #28).

As we unpack this blockbuster trade, there are a few key takeaways for both teams. For the Lakers, by shedding a big contract you set yourself up for a potential Paul George trade, in which negotiations have already entered the preliminary stages.  This also makes the Lakers intentions for Thursday’s lottery clear: they will be drafting Lonzo Ball to take the reigns at point now left open due to the departure of Russell.

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It’s also worth noting that this move may very well be a clue as to what Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have in store for the purple and gold in the near future.

While this trade may have helped the Lakers in many respects, some of which I’ve touched on earlier, it didn’t come without a price, and depending on how next season and beyond play out, it may entail huge consequences. D’Angelo Russell, fresh off just his second season is moving to Brooklyn to play for head coach Kenny Atkinson and the woeful Nets. Many Lakers fans shared the same reaction after witnessing a fresh Woj bomb drop this afternoon, a reaction that is perfectly summed up with this classic Russell GIF:

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A former 2nd overall pick who has actually played really well in his 2 seasons in the league, and showed a lot of promise last season, especially after the all star break. With averages of 15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists on a mere 28.7 minute per game, he has shown nice productivity in limited action.

It was tough to find out he was let go after such a short tenure in the purple and gold. I think it’s not much of a stretch to say that if the Lakers’ young core each reached their potential, it would have been something special to watch homegrown talent built from the draft to rise and bring a storied franchise back to prominence.

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In light of this hefty reduction, the Lakers arsenal is still well equipped with assets and young talent that make plenty other franchise altering moves possible. As crazy as this offseason has been so far, the rumor season is not quite done just yet. With draft starting in a few days and free agency not far away, the rest of the league hast its eyes set on what Magic Johnson and the Lakers are going to do next.

 

NBA Season Recap: WWE Edition

Another NBA season is in the books, and there was no shortage of drama and storylines that kept every basketball fan on their seats. Around this time, as the NBA Finals have finally come to a close, us fans are able to look back at a memorable season that has set Twitter ablaze a few times this past year. All the tension and the drama motivated by various stroylines of this past season makes me think of a parallel universe where the NBA is the WWE. This season had intense feuds, inspiring comebacks and epic showcases of greatness, and as a way to recap a year of hoops, I’ll be locking myself up in my dreamatorium and look back at this NBA season through the millions (and millions) of eyes of the WWE universe.

DX / OKC Break Up

I believe it’s only fitting that I start this recap with the infamous story that broke on the 4th of July, an event that had everyone in anticipation for the start of the season, to see two brothers go to war against each other. As soon as Kevin Durant announced his “new chapter” on the Player’s Tribune, the Brodie was left high and dry.

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It was time for KD to start winning a ring, and it seems like the only way to do it was turn his back on the Brodie. Without even so much as a phone call, and after being up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, your comrade leaves to jump over the fence to join the very team you were just 1 game from beating to head to the Finals. That had to be as painful as the excruciatingly long wind up time to set up and hit a Pedigree.

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Triple H turned his back on D Generation X, and straight up planted Shawn Michaels on to the mat signifying that he seriously intends to chase that gold, and thus effectively beginning a legendary feud between two close friends, and ending a superstar tandem. The KD-Russ feud is a perfect parallel of the Triple H-Shawn Michaels feud in terms of the level of talent involved, the jaw dropping betrayal and the incredible amount of hype fueled by the fans that continued to throw wood in the fire and proceeded to pour gallons and gallons kerosene through a bevy of twitter memes.

No one’s going to deny each superstar’s greatness but now we can only play “what if?” when reminiscing about these two superstars and openly wonder what would’ve happened if they remained together.

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Brodie 3:16

With the last one standing out of the original young Thunder core, Russell Westbrook went on a mission. In a league where super teams are the trend, Westbrook was the lone superstar on the Thunder, and THE man of Oklahoma City.

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As soon as the season Westbrook hit the ground running, en route to a record breaking 42(!) triple doubles in a season surpassing Oscar Robertson’s old record from a lifetime ago. In a super team era, it was refreshing to see players like him put the team on his back and lead his teams through sheer grit and tenacity only the Brodie can play with. He wasn’t interested in making friends with anybody. You were either with him (on his team) or against him, and like the Tasmanian devil, he ran rampant through the league with reckless abandon, ala Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE’s number one badass. There are a number of Stone Cold antics from his book of badassery you could choose from, but Westbrook’s season, to me, showed shades of Stone Cold driving a Zamboni into a WWE ring in Detroit and proceeded to charge the ring full of police, with the only intention of letting all hell loose upon “The Corporation”.

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The season may not have ended in a title, but there’s no denying the greatness of Russell Westbrook. With all the noise about him being a selfish player that drove a superstar out of town and a player that only cared about getting his, Westbrook started and finished the season exemplifying incredible competitive spirit, all while telling everyone, “Why Not?”.

And (for now), that’s the bottom line, ’cause the Brodie said so.

Underdogs

Isaiah Thomas had one of the most inspiring postseason runs in recent memory, and I’ll be the last person on this planet to ever compliment a Celtic, but this man, former Mr. Irrelevant as the 60th pick of the 2011 draft, makes it extremely hard for a Laker fan to hate on him. I’m not going to shower praise on Isaiah Thomas, the Celtic, I’m praising Isaiah Thomas, the man. After the tragic loss of his sister in a fatal car crash, this man still showed up on the basketball court for Game 1 of the playoffs and dropped 33 points on the Bulls.

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Although they lost that game, IT showed tremendous heart, and ultimately won the series. The resilience and toughness you saw from 5″9 guard no one ever knew would ascend to the status of an MVP caliber player and a big time scorer in a league of giants, Isaiah Thomas embodied the ultimate underdog, the same way the masked man of the 619 handled business in the squared circle despite his size.

People tend to judge others based on physical appearance, and both Thomas and Rey Mysterio are familiar with that type of scrutiny. Most people never thought guys like them would excel in their respective profession. Even the Lakers doubted Thomas, who made it clear that he wanted to play for the purple and gold, by deciding to pass on signing the talented point guard.

Though at first you might see each athlete as handicapped or disadvantaged in their respective field, there’s no doubt they make it work, and they’re rather good at what they do. Heck, Isaiah Thomas was so good in the series against the Bulls that he had their head coach Fred Hoiberg pointing out that the point guard “carries the ball” on every possession.

Ok, Fred.

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These past playoffs silenced a lot of critics, and while they may not entirely go away, Thomas has that 53 point performance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Wizards to show his them. Like the Brodie, his journey may not have ended in a championship, but if anything, he showed that he does possess the heart of a champion. But as a Laker fan, I hope he keeps that heart of a champion, and leave the real championships to us.

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Golden State NEXUS

I hate to say it, especially since I’m not talking about my team, but this looks to be the beginning of a dynasty. The Golden State Warriors have won 2 of the last 3 championships, and while they were impressive during their first title run, this past season they acquired an exceptional talent that could change the fortunes of any franchise, but in this case, they’re like the Juggernaut jacked up on adamantium, all because of one offseason acquisition:

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Javale McGee

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In all seriousness, I don’t think I have ever seen any team dominate the league the way the Warriors have done. You could certainly argue that they’re “light years” ahead of any team. Seemingly out of nowhere, Golden State took the league by storm, the way the Nexus took to the ring unannounced, and swung for the biggest fish they could find in John Cena; the same way the Warriors knocked out the best player in the game: LeBron James.

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The way the Nexus took rings apart and destroyed whichever target stood in their way parallels Golden State’s dominance of the NBA. And if that wasn’t enough, both “factions” added a superstar that made it even more difficult for the top dog.

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Like CM Punk before him, Kevin Durant was the adamantium boost to the NBA’s Juggernaut, raising questions about who the “best in the world” truly is.

The Face That Runs The Place

LeBron James is undoubtedly the face of the NBA. As a high school phenom from Akron, Ohio, the league built him up and raised him as the face of one of the most profitable sports league in the world. There’s no questioning LeBron’s greatness, as he’s been the best player in the league for sometime now, but is it fair to question his teams’ greatness?

After suffering a season ending loss at the hands of the Warriors, James was posed a question by Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus about super teams, having been in super teams both in Miami and now currently in Cleveland, and whether or not he supports the formation of super teams having faced a stacked Warriors team.

Really?

LeBron James seems to be suffering from a bit of memory loss, because I seem to recall you predicting you would win “not 5, not 6, not 7…” rings with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the crew. His refusal to acknowledge the fact that he played for a super team, in which by the way he was the architect of, seems to rival another person’s refusal to face the music.

LeBron James is John Cena.

John Cena, WWE’s own face of the company, unquestionably the lead guy that they meticulously built their business around for the past decade, has rolled out the same tired routine all these years the same way LeBron still takes exception to facts of him playing on/building super teams. Cena refuses to turn heel, and has totally embraced being the clean cut, top guy that represents the WWE, the same way LeBron refuses “turn heel” even for just a tiny bit and admit to being on stacked teams instead of washing his hands clean.

Ok, this may have been a reach with the “heel turn”, but in all honesty, both men have been great in their respective professions, and carried their responsibilities as the “face of the franchise”, whether it’s winning titles and championships, or through their philanthropy and charity work. With all that said, they’re now both legends in their own right and household names that have filled our living rooms for the past decade.

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Salute!

Draft Preview: LAVARSZN

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Lavar Ball’s mic skills are second to none. His promo work thus far has been so captivating, that no matter how ridiculous it is, people listen and people react. Give this guy a mic and you’re guaranteed a soundbite, which is one of the biggest reasons the media always has time for a Lavar segment.

I’m 100% sure, if he’s employed by the WWE, he would be the absolute best manager in history. It doesn’t matter which wrestler you pair him up with, Lavar could sell Santino Marella vs. Doink the Clown as the main event of Wrestlemania. Yes, I’m saying Lavar Ball is basketball’s Paul Heyman.

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Paul Heyman is a promo savant who’s instantly greeted by pops by the WWE universe as soon as he enters the arena. He consistently has the audience on the edge of their seats with the way he cuts a promo and hypes up a pay per view event or a marquee match-up. He knows how to get people’s attention and he does it by simply uttering words into a mic with unbridled passion and aggression. Heyman has been the mouthpiece of talented wrestlers over the years like Brock Lesnar, as he touts himself as “the advocate of the beast”.

With the draft days away, it’s sure to be a worldwide spectacle as to what Lavar Ball does during the event. Will my Lakers draft the hometown kid? What happens if their mission of getting Ball to LA fails? More importantly, what will the cameras capture when it turns to Lavar for a reaction after the 2nd pick has been selected?

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Lavar Ball is more than a father at this point. He is an advocate; the advocate of young phenom Lonzo Ball and the rest of Big Baller Brand.

Whatever happens, it’s safe to say the elder Ball will continue to be the mouthpiece of Big Baller Brand, as he builds Lonzo’s brand and hype up the Ball name.

After June 22, the NBA will never be the same.

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