Lavar Ball plucked his chastened son from the arms of UCLA basketball and set him free in a world that doesn’t have a place for him. Because he disagreed with the program’s decision to suspend middle son LiAngelo indefinitely, Lavar Ball wrote a check he simply cannot cash. The suspension was based on the overwhleming and furious outcry by UCLA alumni who saw Ball’s actions in China as a stain on the university’s culture, mission and integrity; they wanted LiAngelo out for the season as punishment for devaluing their principles. UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero had no choice but to suspend Ball and his teammates and, frankly, it was the right thing to do, regardless of what Lavar wants in his collapsed world of privilege and entitlement and creating the rules as he goes along. But here is the problem with what Lavar did yesterday.
LiAngelo has no NBA buzz and as Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted in the aftermath, the chances of a NBA flyer is nonexistent, even the G League. The easiest road to the NBA for LiAngelo was always performing above expectations in the college game. He wasn’t a five or four star recruit. His NBA chances were always considered iffy at best, as he soared into the UCLA program on the Lonzo coattails; he had a talented brother with a glowing reputation. LiAngelo picked up the crumbs.
Scouts don’t see LiAngelo ever developing into a NBA player, not even 12th guy on the bench. LiAngelo is not the scorer his brother LaMelo is. He is not the passer and playmaker his brother Lonzo was in college. LiAngelo has average quickness and fits within the realm of okay to good, but nowhere near the exceptional athleticism NBA players need. He is lacking skill that can be honed, molded and developed over time. He is the jack of all trades on an average scale, master of none, and his shoplifiting scandal proves his maturity wanes when surrounded by peers.
Lavar says he can do a better job than anyone else training LiAngelo and getting him ready for the NBA. But LiAngeo doesn’t need Lavar’s personal training skills. He needs game time. He needs to play. He needs the stress and pressure of a game that means something, that has something tangible on the line. He needs development within the structure of a team. And then he needs a father who has reasonable expectations. But what LiAngelo will get is a Big Baller shoe.
With this tone deaf move, LiAngelo is trying to enter the league like a Kobe or a McGrady or a LeBron, a high schooler. But, he has none of their talent.
LiAngelo is a 6-5 shooting guard. Shooting guards are a dime a dozen. It is the cream of the crop that turn heads, make scouts salivate. None of the mock drafts have LiAngelo mentioned as a NBA anything. Lavar even admitted that LiAngelo probably won’t make it in the NBA.
If he isn’t drafted, the best course is to sign as a free agent with a summer league team and then impress in Vegas but it’s hard to make an impact when you haven’t played games in a year. It’s a huge gambe for the middle Ball son who can’t make his China trip disappear by exceptional play on the court. LiAngelo should be at a mid-major school but he won’t be.
Another option is for both Ball brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, neither of whom are in school, to play overseas as professionals and then work their way into the NBA draft similar to Brandon Jennings. But that has pitfalls too. The European game, if that is what Lavar is considering, is more structured, heavy on fundamentals and absent the look at me narcissism of AAU ball. The rigidity of the system woud appear antithetical to how Lavar likes to manipulate and intimidate those who are in charge of his sons. It is a harsh world for privileged kids whose father has orchestrated every aspect of their lives. The Balls woud-be European teammates are absent such luxuries, have a hunger based on scarcity, desperation and anguish. The American star culture is absent and Lavar’s insistence to insert himself in the middle of things would be shut down instantly.
Besides, the Euro season has already started. LiAngelo woud be a development, a project. He would barely play.
How did it all come to this?
The fairy tale of a father who produced three NBA sons has already taken hits with Lonzo’s mediocrity, LaMelo not in high school and LiAngelo stealing in China. It is way past the bloom being off the rose.
More than likely, Lavar is going to have to be satisifed with being the most famous personal trainer in the States. LiAngelo is a long shot at a NBA career. LaMelo may be in Europe next season- he is considered a top-10 pro prospect. And Lonzo Ball? More bricks and turnovers intermixed with above average performances.
All of it leads to the conclusion: don’t believe the hype.