He’s staying home.
Lonzo Ball, the one-and-done college phenomenon at UCLA, will stay home in Los Angeles after being drafted second overall in the 2017 NBA Draft Thursday. Joining the Lakers, Ball had his first press conference as a Laker Friday.
“It’s a dream come true, all the glory to God,” Ball said minutes after being drafted by Lakers. “I couldn’t ask for anything more, than to learn from [Magic Johnson]. It’s truly a blessing.”
“The new face of the Lakers” is what Johnson, team president, proclaimed Ball to be during Friday’s press conference. Jokingly pleading Ball to preserve a few of of his old team records was Johnson, Friday.
“We want to start building a successful team and you want to have a great leader,” Johnson said. “Somebody that can make their teammates better, somebody who has incredible basketball I.Q. …we feel that we have that person right here, in Lonzo Ball.”
Sharing Johnson’s sentiment was Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka.
“We knew the talent was transcended…there’s truly a gift with what [Lonzo] has been blessed with,” Pelinka said.
More so than talent, evaluating Ball’s character was key to bringing in Ball, Pelinka said. After spending time with the family Pelinka said he and Johnson were more than convinced that Ball was a good fit.
“This is a family that’s centered around treating people the right way and hard work and a high level of character,” Pelinka said. “We see that in Lonzo and we know that those leadership qualities are what’s going to take the Lakers to their ultimate destination which is winning an NBA championship.”
Facing high expectations and having to take on a leadership position for the high-profiled franchise is no different than what he’s been asked of before, Ball said. When it comes to skills, Ball’s passing ability fits well with the philosophy of head coach Luke Walton, Pelinka says.
“Lonzo, all he needs to do is play his game. He doesn’t need to change,” Johnson said. “We got great young weapons around him…everybody understands that playing with somebody with Lonzo’s talent will make them better.”
On draft night Ball’s father, LaVar, guaranteed a playoff birth during his rookie season. The Lakers haven’t made the postseason since 2012. However, this wouldn’t be the first time Ball’s father made right on a prediction.
By Gino Terrell