EL SEGUNDO — He was called “a great leader” with an “incredible basketball IQ” who has “greatness written all over him.”
In paying Lonzo Ball the ultimate compliment, Magic Johnson even likened the newest Laker to Magic Johnson.
Then Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager, described Ball as an “unbelievable person and player” with “transcendent talent” who “is a perfect fit here.”
Somewhere along the way Friday, Pelinka also explained that he prefers to make his points by telling stories because “in press conferences I don’t like a lot of hyperbole.”
Honest. He really said that. Not a lot of hyperbole.
Well, in a news conference drunk on hyperbole, the Lakers introduced their latest top pick, Ball’s presence also swelling the room with the sort of optimism foreign to this franchise for years now.
Taken No. 2 overall Thursday, he clearly was No. 1 in the hearts and souls of Johnson and Pelinka – but only because there isn’t a numerical expression higher than No. 1.
“I’m happy,” Johnson said. “I’m excited. Laker fans should be excited. We’re back.”
It was difficult not to be swept up in the fuzzy feel-good, an organization that has lost 72 percent of its games over the past four seasons suddenly captured best in Johnson’s still impossibly infectious smile.
And yet, Magic was wise enough to attempt to quiet the trembling anticipation by reminding everyone that the broken-down Lakers remain very much under repair.
“We want expectations,” he said. “We want to win championships here. We’ve got to get the right people in place to do that, but we’re building every step.”
Then, to confirm that he understands the process will require time, Johnson added, “I’m not crazy.”
As for crazy …
“I don’t think the Lakers are going to make the playoffs,” LaVar Ball announced. “I know they’re going to make the playoffs.”
Yes, Lonzo’s dad doubled-down Friday on the prediction he made during the…