The Los Angeles Lakers have done their best this season to avoid the drama where LaVar Ball is concerned. The outspoken father of the team's rookie point guard Lonzo Ball can grab headlines with just a few choice words. And it doesn't matter if he's sitting in Staples Center or on the other side of the world.
The elder Ball's latest shots are directed squarely at Lakers coach Luke Walton. LaVar Ball, in Lithuania with his two younger sons who are playing professionally, insists Walton has "lost" the team in an exclusive interview with ESPN's Jeff Goodman. He also made a free agent prediction that LeBron James will join the Lakers, too. But his comments on Walton are sure to cause a stir for the Lakers, who host Atlanta tonight (9:30 ET, NBA League Pass):
"You can see they're not playing for Luke no more," LaVar said from the spa resort in Birstonas where he is staying while his two youngest sons get ready to make their professional debuts. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him."
"That's a good team," he added of the Lakers, who have lost nine straight games. "Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high five's when they come out of the game. People don't know why they're in the game. He's too young. He's too young. ... He ain't connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he's not connecting with not one player."
LaVar has had issues with his sons' coaches the last few years and even pulled LaMelo from Chino Hills High prior to the start of the season due to problems with first-year coach Dennis Latimore.
"Lonzo looked good, but he also looked disgusted," LaVar said. "He was ready to play. Four minutes left in the first quarter, he dunked it, getting in a flow and coach sits him down. Sat him down. Now game goes from 4 points to 10 to 15 to 20. I don't know what they're doing. if he's ready to play, let him play. Don't try and monitor no minutes, put on restrictions."
However, at Sunday's shootaround, Walton and Lonzo Ball downplayed the elder Ball's comments from overseas.
The Los Angeles Times' Tania Ganguli reports that Lonzo Ball was asked if he liked playing for Walton.
“I’ll play for anybody,” Ball said. He added, after a follow-up question: “My job is to play basketball. I don’t decide who coaches.”
Walton says he is not concerned about his job security.
Walton said he has spoken to team executives, and has received assurances that his job is safe. “I feel very secure in my job status right now,” Walton said. “We talk all the time. They’re 100% behind and supporting what we’re doing.”
The Lakers (11-27) are riding a nine-game losing streak to sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
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