The Long-Awaited Laker

Occasionally, things just seem to magically work out.

The Lakers happened to defy lottery odds and end up with the No. 2 pick in a year there was a local guy sitting there for the taking.

A week before the draft, the Lakers were continuing to evaluate prospects for their top pick and requested a second individual workout with Ball at the team’s practice facility. Ball accepted yet changed course on today’s standard player workout, presenting a unique meeting on Ball’s home turf.

During the predraft process, the Lakers and Ball’s agent, Harrison Gaines, took a cooperative approach. For the second workout, however, Gaines informed the Lakers that the team would need to see a day in the life of Lonzo Ball – or nothing at all.  The Lakers agreed to the request and it must’ve worked.  

The Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball.

Just like in 2003, when LeBron James went to his hometown Cavs.  Or 2008, when Chicago had the No. 1 slot in native Derrick Rose’s class.  Now a local guy will start for the team he has dreamed of playing for.

Nineteen-year-old Lonzo Ball called it a “dream come true” to be able to stay in Los Angeles and work with debatably the greatest point guard ever, Lakers president Magic Johnson.

“It’s crazy,” Ball told ESPN after being drafted. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. Just to be able to learn from him every day should be amazing.”

Ball, the Chino Hills native who excelled in one season at UCLA, heard Adam Silver say his name on Thursday evening at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, putting into reality a dream that he’s repeatedly said his father, LaVar, talked about until it finally happened.

To make the tale even better, the person running the Lakers in 2017 happens to be the one Ball and his family idolized back in the day.

LA Lakers
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Magic Johnson was even the one who delivered the pick to the Lakers at the draft lottery.

“My dad loved him and loved the way the Lakers played,” Ball said of Magic after his pre-draft workout in L.A. “I kind of patterned my game after that. Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players to ever play … he’s the best point guard to ever play, so I can learn a lot of things from him.”

As a First Team All-American selection and Pac-12 Player of the Year at UCLA, Ball averages 14.6 points on 55.1 percent shooting and 41.2 percent from three with an NCAA-best 7.6 assists and 6.0 boards, 1.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game.

With a pretty well-balanced skill set that includes finishing strong at the rim and hitting 3’s off the dribble or in spot up situations, Ball’s best trait has yet to be mentioned.

He’s an incredible passer.

So much so, in fact, that he infects his teammates with the itch to move the ball just like he does. That’s not a common trait even amongst elite NBA point guards or ball-dominant wings. It’s not one that can be taught, but it is one that coach/pass-happy former player Luke Walton loves more than most.

Of course, Ball is not without weaknesses.

“You can always work on everything,” he said. “But for me, probably just strength, get stronger and the mid-game pull-up stuff.”

Getting stronger will help him to fight through the constant ball screens that get set on NBA point guards by bigs, and help him improve lateral quickness and explosion to switch onto bigger wings when needed.

We should remember: Ball is only 19 years old, and doesn’t turn 20 until next October.

There’s plenty of time for improvement, which will start quite soon as he takes the floor wearing purple and gold at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (July 7-17).

But for now, at least, things are simple.

The Lakers think they found their point guard and leader into the future and happened to make a lifelong dream come true in the process.