This one had a different feel to it.
After all, pre-NBA Draft workouts don’t typically have the same level of media interest or attendance as end-of-season Kobe Bryant press availabilities after the Lakers last won the title in 2009 and 2010.
But with UCLA freshman and Chino Hills native Lonzo Ball in on Wednesday morning at the team’s practice facility, this one did.
Holders of the second overall pick in the Draft, after bucking 53.1 percent odds that they’d lose the pick altogether to Philadelphia, L.A. could have the chance to select Ball … should the Boston Celtics not do it first, that is.
Of course, L.A. could select somebody else, or even trade the pick. That’s part of the reason to get to know Ball and the rest of the prospects better, a process that includes on-court workouts, and on occasion, some off-court activity as well.
On Tuesday night, Ball went to dinner with Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, GM Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton.
“They said they want me to come in, if I get picked, and be a leader,” relayed Ball. “Play with a lot of pace. The stuff they were saying was very positive, and it kind of fits my game.”
They just wanted to know what type of person I am. I never met them, they never met me, and it was the first time. It was a good sit down dinner. I had a lot of fun.”
Ball thinks he’d have more fun if he were to be selected by the Lakers. That’s no secret.
<p“Of course,” he said. “I want to stay home.”
In fact, he’s been thinking about it since the days Magic ran the show.
“My dad loved him and loved the way the Lakers played,” Ball continued. “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.”
While Ball added that he loves how Walton coaches and was impressed with Pelinka after the Tuesday dinner, Wednesday involved less talking.
It was mostly running and shooting.
“The drills get you tired and you’ve just got to stay focused,” he relayed. “It was a lot of shooting, a lot of pivots, a lot of pull-ups.”
The Lakers have plenty of tape of Ball playing at UCLA to refer to. They were able to watch, often in person, him average 14.6 points on 55.1 percent shooting and 41.2 percent from three with a nation-best 7.6 assists plus 6.0 boards, 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. A consensus First Team All-America selection and Pac-12 Player of the Year, he set a UCLA record by totaling 274 assists.
His team-first attitude seems to vibe with what Walton’s been preaching.
“Everything you do, you’ve got to do it for the team,” said Ball. “Bring a winning atmosphere in here — I think I can do that.”
Since Ball grew up a Lakers fan, he wasn’t necessarily in awe of the banners and trophies at the facility, as much as happy to have the opportunity. Nerves weren’t an issue, either.
“I don’t get nervous when I play basketball,” he said.
Ball does, however, realize he has a lot of room to grow.
“You can always work on everything,” he offered. “But for me, probably just strength, get stronger and the mid-game pull-up stuff.”
Towards that end, Ball has shown that he excels at either shooting threes or getting all the way to the rim. He knows he’ll have to have an answer for teams that try to take both away.
He said he thinks he’ll be “fine” defensively in the NBA, that he’ll be able to use his 6-foot-6 frame to guard “one through three.”
After the workout and media session concluded, Ball headed to lunch with Lakers ownership, including Governor Jeanie Buss, South Bay Lakers President/CEO Joey Buss and Lakers Director of Scouting/Assistant GM Jesse Buss.
Whether or not Ball sets foot back in the building depends when NBA commissioner Adam Silver says his name on June 22.