If the 2017-18 NBA Season is the forthcoming blockbuster that everyone wants to see, the summer league was a 6-8 game movie trailer full of intriguing and exciting previews from rookies such as Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith, Jr, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and Jordan Bell.
But it was Lonzo Ball and his play that was the talk of the league and the ‘preview’ that generated the most buzz.
Behind his 16 points/9.3 assists/7.7 rebound line, Ball lead the Lakers to a 6-2 record, the summer league title, and left Vegas with the MVP. He has also turned some of his critics into believers in his game, and injected some much needed hope into a struggling Lakers franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013.
I can’t say that I’m blown away by his performance in the summer league because those are the numbers that I’ve expected from him. And if some of you have been paying attention, you’d probably feel what I am saying. Strip away all of the hype and noise surrounding the kid and you may find that you have seen this before. Lonzo Ball is a throwback to the facilitator first point guard. His M.O. is a fast, up-tempo style with an emphasis on getting his teammates involved and established first before he looks for his own shot. The way that Ball sees the court and his IQ on the floor is nothing short of prolific. To me, the summer league performance is no different than what I’ve seen from Ball at UCLA.
Magic Johnson, Laker Nation, and hyperbole driven fanboys have already gassed Lonzo up to the point that he’s already won the 2018 Rookie of the Year and that he’s a transcendent difference maker that will lead the Lakers back to the playoffs. I’m loving the fresh energy and enthusiasm. It’s cool, but I think that folks need to pump their brakes and dial the expectations back before crowning Ball.
His numbers and the numbers of the other rookies haven’t moved me much because it was the summer league. While the summer league is great for giving the rookies a little taste of the regular season before training camp, it doesn’t compare to the competition and the grind of an 82 game season. The only takeaways that I got from Ball and his summer league performance is that the dude:
-Will be a solid player.
-Is a great fit for the Lakers and their system and is in good hands with Magic guiding him.
-Has the potential to be great if he puts in the work and is healthy.
-Will have the ups and downs typical of a rookie navigating the league.
-Needs to bulk up, work on his shot, and limit some of his turnovers.
That’s it. That’s all. That’s fair.
Speaking of fairness, I’ve seen a healthy share of people complaining that the hate that Lonzo is getting out the gate is undeserved and unfair and that he shouldn’t be penalized for the ridiculous things that his father, LaVar says. Whether it’s fair or not, the bottom line is that some fans will take out the vitriol and hatred of LaVar out on Lonzo no matter what. It is what it is. But what if I told you that what you think ‘this’ is isn’t what it really is? Let me explain.
When I look at LaVar Ball, all I see is the ‘drunk uncle who talks a lot of trash at the family cookout’ amplified with a platform. But what many don’t realize is that the ‘drunk uncle’ has a real sober mind. I have a theory that the trash that LaVar talked was to bolster Lonzo’s draft stock, and I don’t think that it’s far fetched.
In today’s NBA, Chris Paul is the last of the traditional point guards and it’s a scoring point guard and combo player driven league. It was even reported that the gist of LaVar’s antics was about marketing and entertainment. I feel that LaVar talked trash and hyped up Lonzo like he did to get him noticed in the midst of scoring point guards and it worked. I bet if LaVar hadn’t opened his mouth, Lonzo, would have probably been 9th or 10th in the draft or something.
I also believe that LaVar knew that he was putting a target on Lonzo’s back and knew that the checks had to be cashed on the court. LaVar knew this and did this on purpose to mentally prepare Lonzo and keep him focused The media is using and has used LaVar for clicks and views but LaVar has used them right back and gained a reality show and attention for Big Baller Brand out of it, and you can’t get mad at him for using the media and getting what he can.
My issue with LaVar is that he tends to overdo it-alluding to Kyrie Irving’s dead mother, trading cards with his likeness and the $500 Zo shoes are examples. I get the ambition to co-brand with the major shoe companies, but I disagree with the approach. Why didn’t LaVar and Lonzo switch up shoes and wear BBB apparel in the first place instead of asking for a billion dollar deal and co-branding? Not unless the Zo shoes were a means to raise capital to put back into BBB for apparel, or the shoes are a “luxury/casual” shoe.
For the sake of thought and argument, let’s just say that if one of the three brands sign Lonzo, what would happen to Big Baller Brand? Wherever Lonzo signs, he’d have to be a spokesman and model for the company and more than likely the brand wouldn’t want to commit to a co-branding deal. Will LaVar run it and get another athlete to rep for it or will it be abandoned all together?
All of the hypotheticals depend on Lonzo’s play. If he plays up to his expectations during the regular season, his loudest critics will have nothing to say, he’ll get the shoe deal plus a co-branding partnership. If Lonzo fails to live up to the hype, all he’ll get is roasted in the media and online and branded as a bust.
Judging from the ‘preview’ Lonzo looks like he will be good, and the Lakers will push for that 7th or 8th seed. But, the ‘preview’ is just that: A snippet and sample of what’s to come and the actual ‘production’ could go either way. The expectations and buzz is awesome but it’s just that. The real “rating” of Lonzo isn’t in mid July. It’s in October.