LaVar Ball has given the Lakers an ultimatum: Draft LiAngelo, or lose Lonzo.
The loud-mouthed basketball dad proclaimed in an interview with Lithuanian basketball reporter Donatas Urbonas he will instruct his oldest son to leave the Lakers in free agency if the team opts not to draft LiAngelo in the upcoming 2019 NBA draft or sign him as an undrafted free-agent.
“I want all my three boys to play for the Lakers,” LaVar told Urbonas. “But if that does not happen, I’m telling you the story what’s gonna happen first.
“If they don’t take Gelo this year, I bring Gelo here to play with Melo for two years. Lonzo will be on his third year and I want to let every NBA team know that Lonzo is not going to re-sign with the Lakers but will go to any team that will take all of my three boys. That’s my plan.”
Unfortunately, there’s a glaring issue with LaVar’s plan, as the Lakers own club options on Lonzo’s contract through the 2020-21 season and can then match any deal he signs as a restricted free agent three years from now.
While LaMelo was originally rated as a five-star prospect and the No. 7 player in the Class of 2019 by ESPN – before LaVar decided to homeschool the 15-year-old and have him play professionally in Lithuania – LiAngelo isn’t viewed by scouts as a legitimate NBA prospect. Heading into his freshman season at UCLA, the middle Ball brother was set to come off the bench as a fringe rotational player before LaVar pulled him from school following his shoplifting arrest in China to play professionally with LaMelo.
Lonzo has played well in his rookie season, averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. LaVar, however, believes Lonzo would flourish if he was on the same court as LiAngelo, as they did when they played together at Chino Hills High School.
“Lonzo plays best when he is with his brother,” LaVar told Urbonas. “Why wouldn’t – he is a hell of a shooter. They don’t play the same position. You see how successful he was when he was with his brother?”
LaVar, seemingly acknowledging the fact it’s unlikely LiAngelo will be drafted, said the Lakers wouldn’t even have to give LiAngelo an exuberant contract to keep him happy.
“We don’t have to go (to) any draft. Just sign him in free agency. You don’t have to give Gelo $15 million. Give (him a) million for three years, we’ll take it. So now you win championship after championship on (the) fact my boys will never leave.”
LiAngelo and LaMelo have had relative success since signing with Prienu Vytautas in the Lithuanian League (LKL), dominating lesser competition as part of the Big Baller Brand Showcase exhibition games, but struggling at times when going up against Lithuania’s upper-tier teams.
While playing against the top-level LKL competition, LiAngelo has averaged 13.8 points and two rebounds in 20.8 minutes played. LaMelo has had less success against Lithuania’s top teams, averaging just 7.6 points and 2.6 assists in 14.4 minutes played. He’s shooting just 30.6 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range.
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