The annual highlight for our local basketball franchise arrives Tuesday night when men in suits slowly open large white envelopes on a New York soundstage. Hey, it isn’t the Conference Finals, but for Sixers fans, the NBA lottery is all there is.
I won’t bore you with the mind-numbing math. But if the four-leaf clovers and lucky amulets do their work, the Sixers could walk away with the first- and fourth-overall picks in the 2017 draft. Fans of Sam Hinkie will find their heads exploding.
There is no first-name-only generational player projected this year — no Shaq or Kobe or LeBron. Still, there are potential stars, including point guard Markelle Fultz of Washington, guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk of Kentucky and small forward Josh Jackson of Kansas.
There’s also Lonzo Ball, the 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard. Ball shows elite speed, creativity and a defensive conscience. He comes with great passing instincts and an unselfish approach.
He also comes with the worst sports father since Marv Marinovich. And, for that reason, the Sixers would be wise to stay away.
Lonzo Ball is not nearly the household name of his dad, LaVar Ball, and that’s trouble. LaVar Ball makes Carl Lindros look like an absentee father.
Just in recent weeks, LaVar has grabbed the microphone to:
— Complain that UCLA lost in the NCAA Tournament because, “You can't win no championship with three white guys, because the foot speed is too slow.” By the way, those three white guys combined for 39 points in UCLA’s elimination loss; Lonzo Ball had 10.
— Declare that, “My son will only play for the Lakers.” He has since backtracked.
— Pick public feuds with LeBron James (insulting King James’ son), Shaquille O’Neal, Steph Curry and Charles Barkley (“If he thought like me, maybe he’d be a champion”). Oh, and some retired guy, of whom Ball said, “Back in my day, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”
He also scared away the major shoe companies who were considering an endorsement deal with Lonzo. Instead, LaVar opened a family company called “Big Baller Brand.” While I admire the entrepreneurial approach, I question the $495 price tag attached to a player who hasn’t spent a moment in the NBA. At last report, the ZO2 sneakers had sold several dozen pairs.
LaVar Ball’s pro wrestling heel turn is certainly amusing. And he’d make every local media member’s job more interesting.
But for a young franchise like the Sixers, he would be Daddy Disaster. Coach Brett Brown has a tough enough task trying to guide the ascending careers of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. He doesn’t need the added nuisance of a rookie’s father screaming advice from the front row.
Have no doubt: LaVar Ball would be at every home game, blathering about what’s wrong to anyone who’d listen (and we would). And it wouldn’t take more than a season for him to start barking about pulling Lonzo back to California the moment he hits free agency.
The Sixers have enough challenges. Let Father and Son Ball be someone else’s.