Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (June 25): Magic Johnson sees himself in rookie Lonzo Ball

Plus, Chicago prepares for life without Butler, Orlando looks back at Howard-era, and much more

Today’s headlines:

No. 1: Magic and Ball’s relationship growing — They just became a team a few days ago and yet Magic Johnson is clearly taking a tutorial role in the life of first-round pick Lonzo Ball. This is no surprise; Magic was a pass-first point guard and also needs Ball to become a star to justify taking the teenager with the No. 2 overall pick. Here’s Bill Orem of the Orange County Register studying the vibe between Laker Gm and Laker savior:

The first son born into a basketball family, Lonzo Ball was bred for stardom. What he knew about Magic Johnson, a superstar who last played in the NBA a year before he was born, came from the stories his father, LaVar, told and what he could glean from the grainy footage of games that replayed on cable television.

“It was a pleasure to watch,” Lonzo said Thursday. “(I could) learn a lot from him.”

So is it any surprise that when the roles were flipped this spring, and it was Johnson studying footage of Ball, that what the old Lakers great saw looked familiar?

“Watching so much tape of him,” Johnson said, “you see yourself.”

You do if you’re Magic.

The Lakers have drafted 90 players in the 38 years since Johnson arrived in Los Angeles. Never had any of them arrived with the fanfare and pressure that preceded Johnson’s introduction by Dr. Jerry Buss and Jerry West at the Forum on a June day in 1979.

Then on Thursday, Johnson welcomed Lonzo Ball.

Before he handed Ball his No. 2 jersey on Thursday in front of local and national media at the Lakers practice facility, Johnson faced his new protégé and warned that he was about to put some pressure on him. “You look to your right, there’s some jerseys hanging on that wall.”

Ball looked up. Baylor, Goodrich, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal, Worthy, West. Johnson.“We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there, all right?” Johnson said.

LaVar Ball nodded enthusiastically from his front row seat, while the soft-spoken Lonzo mumbled an agreement.

So much for the notion that the Lakers would try to minimize the pressure the garrulous LaVar Ball has heaped on his son. They will amplify it. In a single breath, Johnson anointed Ball “the new face of the Lakers” and “the guy who will lead us back to where we want to get to.”

Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka are staking their credibility as NBA executives to Ball.

This is how Johnson welcomed Ball because this is also how the revered Dr. Buss welcomed him. The relationship between Buss and Johnson is of legend, the pair out on the town, going to boxing matches together, the Kings of L.A. It was that relationship that ultimately guided Jeanie Buss to replace her real brother, Jim, with the man who her dad always treated like another son.

For all of the talk show hours expended on LaVar Ball and his influence on his son, the relationship that might prove to matter more, at least as far as the Lakers are concerned, is a paternal bond between Johnson and the point guard he plans to take under his wing the same way Buss did him.

“I already told him that,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go to lunch and dinners. We’re going to sit and watch film together. We’re going to do a lot of different things. It’s not just basketball. It’s also life. I told him that. We’re going to sit and just talk.”

If there’s pressure being drafted in the lottery by a team with 16 championships, how much is that amplified when you are hand-picked by Magic Johnson himself to carry on his legacy?

Ball shrugged.

“It’s not just me. (It’s) playing basketball,” Lonzo said, “which I’ve been playing my whole life. It’s fun to me. It’s fun here. I’m not really worried about all that.”

The Lakers believe Ball is uniquely equipped to handle that pressure. The same way Kobe Bryant was. Same as Magic.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you come here,” Johnson said. “We knew that he could handle the pressure of being a Laker, Los Angeles and Hollywood at the same time.”

Everything eventually comes back to the court, where Ball will either live up to the hype, or will make like most of those 90 other draft picks: no jersey on the wall, their number thrown back into the bin and recycled for the next generation.

No. 2: Bulls’ front office on hot seat? — With the trade of Jimmy Butler to the Wolves, perception became reality and the Bulls officially entered a rebuilding stage. The jury will be out on whether they made the best trade possible, or selected the right players in the draft, but clearly the front office has become a flashpoint. Gar Forman and John Paxson fired coach Tom Thibodeau, signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, and none of it worked over the last few years. KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune believes this next stage must work, or else:

Thursday’s blockbuster trade of Jimmy Butler to Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves isn’t just about landing three lottery picks in Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. It’s a full-on rebuild, designed to produce high lottery picks for one, two — gulp — three (?) more seasons.

This just in: The Bulls are going to struggle to win games next season.

On paper, they appear to be defensively challenged. They’re indisputably post-dynasty-era young. As currently constructed, nine of their 12 projected players own four years’ experience or less.This will try fans’ patience while still hitting their pocketbooks hard.

“It’s not just about today,” Bulls executive John Paxson said in the wake of Thursday’s trade and draft. “We added three really talented young pieces to our team. And as we go forward, we anticipate having other high draft picks. And you’ve seen teams turn it around through the draft. That’s going to be our job now.”

Make no mistake: This rebuild places full-blast pressure on the drafting ability of Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and their staff, and the developmental ability of coach Fred Hoiberg and his staff. With no Derrick Rose or Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade’s best days in his rearview mirror, they all have to star.

Ownership’s confidence in the management duo’s talent-evaluation and roster-building ability were two reasons cited when the Tribune reported in February that Paxson and Forman would be retained even if the Bulls missed the playoffs for a second straight season. Much of that trust is based on the last time Paxson and Forman completely overhauled the roster.

Taking over for Jerry Krause in April 2003, Paxson fired former teammate Bill Cartwright and installed Scott Skiles, his handpicked coach, seven months later. After limping through a 23-59 season with rookie Kirk Hinrich, Paxson’s first draft pick, they acquired four rookies in Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni, who, along with Skiles, completely changed the culture.

Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler were the only two players to last from the team Paxson inherited to the one that overcame an 0-9 start and finished the 2004-05 season at 47-35, earning the franchise’s first playoff berth since the dynasty dismantling. That’s a lot of turnover for 24 months.

Those “Baby Bulls” teams never won championships, which should be and remains the standard for a franchise that has captured six. But they made three straight playoff appearances and featured a string of strong draft-day acquisitions in Hinrich, Gordon, Deng and Duhon.Consistent draft hits are what this rebuild must receive to stay nourished. And after a string of underwhelming picks from Marquis

Teague to Tony Snell to draft-day acquisition Doug McDermott, this is where the fans’ greatest skepticism is found. The jury remains out on Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, who just so happen to project for major roles in this rebuild.

The best-case scenario for Paxson and Forman is that LaVine successfully rehabilitates from his torn left ACL, Dunn puts a blah rookie season behind him and Markkanen begins a string of impact lottery picks. The worst-case scenario is that Portis and Valentine go the way of McDermott and Markkanen and that future draft picks have so little impact that the time to add high-priced veterans via trade or free agency never arrives.

In that case, President Michael Reinsdorf would have no choice but to make a move.

No. 3. Dwight Howard’s time in Orlando — When Dwight Howard was contemplating whether to leave the Orlando Magic and see if the grass is greener, he received some advice from Magic owner Rich DeVos, who said, “it’s not.” DeVos explained that Howard was the biggest star in Orlando, which isn’t a fishbowl, and enjoyed a measure of comfort. But as we know, Howard forced his way to the Lakers, then the Rockets and Hawks and now is with his fourth team since leaving O-town. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel was in a reflective mood when he wrote this piece:

If only Dwight Howard had listened to the sage advice of Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos, he’d be a legend right now instead of a leftover.

He’d be a Central Florida icon instead of an NBA journeyman.

Howard has become such a basketball drifter that not even his hometown team — the Atlanta Hawks — could stand having him on their roster for more than one season.

The Hawks traded Howard to the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday night for $24, 10 beaver pelts and some glass beads. Actually, Charlotte sent a bunch of spare parts — Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick in Thursday’s NBA draft — to Atlanta for Howard and the Hawks’ 31st pick.

That’s right, the Hawks are giving up Howard and a better draft pick just so they can get rid of him. The Hawks are akin to a frustrated car owner driving an old jalopy to the junkyard and junkyard owner saying, “Give me a $100 disposal fee and I’ll take it off your hands.”

This is what Dwight has become since leaving Orlando. He’s gone from one the elite players in the NBA to a salary dump. Since leaving the Magic five seasons ago, he is on his fourth team.

DeVos tried to warn Dwight. He tried to tell his franchise player that if he left Orlando he would likely regret it because he would be giving up a special bond that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere.

“Dwight is in a good place, and when you’re young, sometimes you don’t realize that,” DeVos said then. “The loyalty you develop in a community is always remembered. But if you leave, you don’t pick it up in the next town. It’s not an add-on because you lose what you had. Maybe you gain some new [love], but maybe you don’t. Maybe the net gain isn’t as good as you think.”

I wrote it when Dwight left and I’ll write it again now: There’s a reason the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. It’s because it’s been fertilized with a bunch of horse manure.

Dwight Howard had it all when he was in Orlando. He was an MVP candidate. He was on a championship contender. He was the three-time defensive player of the year. He was beloved and revered.

I still remember when Dwight was plotting his exit from Orlando, some friends of mine in a local band recorded a song and video professing Orlando’s love for Dwight and begging him to stay.The other day, a friend of mine’s girlfriend snapped the above photo showing a bunch of No. 12 Dwight Howard Magic jerseys in a discount bin at the Oviedo Goodwill.

Sadly, Dwight’s entire career is now in the discount bin.

Except there’s no goodwill.

There’s no love or loyalty like he had in Orlando.

As DeVos so wisely pointed out, you don’t pick that up in another town.

Not even in your hometown.

Some Random Headlines: While they grapple with the upcoming decision by free agent Gordon Hayward, the Jazz are also trying to settle their point guard situation. George Hill is also a free agent and he could be pricey. Do they turn the keys over to Dante Exum? … Josh Jackson, the Suns’ No. 1 pick, has some growing up to do and the Suns need to help him do that … Yes, Jimmy Butler is happy to re-join Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, so says Thibodeau … Pacers first-round pick TJ Leaf played college ball at UCLA but feels at home in Indianapolis … Looks like the Sixers are finally getting the last laugh, but we knew that all along, right? … LaVar Ball said his son will lead the Lakers to the playoffs as a rookie but Las Vegas isn’t so sure.