EL SEGUNDO – The crowd hovered around LaVar Ball, reporters and cameramen eager to document what Lonzo Ball’s outspoken father might say next.
LaVar Ball never has shied away from his bold proclamations. So he wrote everyone’s headline for them.
“I don’t think the Lakers are going to make the playoffs,” Ball said. “I know they’re going to make the playoffs.”
Ball shares that optimism because his son will now lead the Lakers as their starting point guard after they selected him with their No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Though most of the attention was focused on Ball on Friday at his introductory news conference at the Lakers’ practice facility, the team remains busy with another component that could determine their postseason fortunes.
“Are the Lakers close to another deal? No, not right now,” said Magic Johnson, the team’s president of basketball operations. “Of course we’ll look into improving the team in any way we can. But not right now.”
The Lakers had been in trade talks with the Indiana Pacers regarding Paul George. They offered their 27th and 28th picks and either forward Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson. The Pacers have received and are mulling other offers, though. After making several trade proposals, the Lakers spent Friday waiting for those teams to answer, according to a source familiar with the situation.
“Rob has not been able to sleep,” Johnson said. “For the past week, he has been on the phone with every single team.”
The Lakers already made a trade this week with the Brooklyn Nets, swapping center Timofey Mozgov and guard D’Angelo Russell for center Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick. The Lakers mostly made that move to shed Mozgov’s salary (three years, $48 million), acquire a promising center (Lopez) and secure a draft pick that became Utah forward Kyle Kuzma. But Johnson acknowledged he found Russell’s leadership qualities lacking.
“I understand how to build in terms of championship…