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LaVar Ball is the story that won’t go away, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

We can ignore the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers supposedly played a basketball game last night. It seems the Cavaliers are doing their annual post-Christmas hibernation act. It’s nice to know some things never change. They are simply awful to watch right now. It can be annoying and frustrating, but they’ll probably turn it around at some point and once the playoffs come around and they actually care again, they’ll probably roll through the Eastern Conference again. So, whatever.

I’m sure some want to talk about last night’s college football National Championship Game last night as well. However, I do not. And this is my podium, so tough! All joking aside, though, it was a classic game and Nick Saban showed why he’s the best coach in college football in that game. Nobody is grandfathered into a starting spot under Saban. You earn your playing time and the second you let up, he’s more than happy to let someone else do the job. They epitomize the “next man up” mantra. Yet, I have such Alabama fatigue1 that I just don’t have it in me to talk any more about that game.

Instead, I’ll talk a little about LaVar Ball. I know, I know, talk about fatigue over a subject. I think almost all fans are sick and tired of hearing about Ball. I truly wonder, how many people are actually fans of the Ball family? I’m sure they’re out there, but literally (and I mean literally in the literal sense of the word…..literally) every single person I talk to about this expresses their disgust that the Ball family gets too much media attention. It seems like it’s truly all coming to a head right now.

Over the weekend, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who is in Lithuania right now simply to cover the Ball family for ESPN, posted a story in which he quotes LaVar Ball saying the Lakers players don’t want to play for Luke Walton anymore and that the Lakers should get rid of Walton.

“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” Ball said from a spa resort in Birstonas, where he is staying while his two youngest sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, get ready to make their professional debuts with Lithuanian team Prienu Vytautas. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”

“That’s a good team,” he added of the Lakers, who have lost nine straight games. “Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”

This comes after Ball had met with Lakers representatives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and promised to tone down his criticism of Walton and to not be a distraction, as reported by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Ball’s comments sent some ripples through the NBA. Rick Carlisle, as Carlisle is known to do, came out strong in support of his fellow coach, blasting ESPN for giving Ball a platform. Steve Kerr likened ESPN’s coverage of LaVar Ball to the Kardashians, saying this is a societal issue where we are covering nonsense as entertainment.

First things first, by all accounts Jeff Goodman is a really good reporter. I have no clue if it was his idea to go to Lithuania to cover the Balls or if it was ESPN’s decision, but either way, he’s there to do a job and he’s going to do it well. That involves talking to Ball and then reporting what he says. The bigger issue, as Kerr alluded to, is why anyone cares what LaVar Ball says to begin with.

This is where it gets tricky. Some have argued that this has all been ESPN making their own news and entertainment story from day one. There’s no question ESPN has long served as its own echo chamber, creating storylines and then distributing these lines across all its various platforms. It definitely makes some sense in this context, that this is simply ESPN forcing us to digest news on the Ball family despite how disgusted and sick of it we all are. Yet, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. At some level, people just can’t help themselves. If nobody ever clicked on an article about the Ball family or turned the channel as soon as one of them was on TV, ESPN would quickly bring Goodman home and stop covering them. Indeed, make no mistake, the Ball family is good ratings.

And yes, there’s even an irony in this piece being written right now. By even addressing it at all, I am feeding into the machine2 and I am well aware of that. But I do find myself wondering if all this coverage will have an impact on the actual sports world itself on the court.

We’ve already seen some opposing players go at Lonzo Ball with a little extra intensity, most notable of them being Patrick Beverley. Beverley likes to make life hard for everyone he plays, but Lonzo faced a little extra pressure because of his father’s mouth.

Now the Lakers find themselves entrenched in controversy and distraction. You have Lonzo being asked about his father’s comments, forcing him to choose sides between his coach and his dad. It could potentially drive a wedge in the locker room as well, where you have fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma sticking up for Walton and defending his coach while Lonzo can only sheepily state that he will play for any coach. On one hand, that includes Walton since he said any coach, but it also implies he would be fine with the Lakers giving him a different coach to play for.

You have to wonder if GMs across the NBA will be more hesitant to sign, draft, or trade for one of the Balls after watching this thing go up in flames in LA. How good do these kids have to be at basketball to be worth this amount of headache? Having LeBron on your team isn’t always easy as he can add pressure and scrutiny, he can sometimes be a little moody and passive-aggressive toward the franchises he plays for, and there is always speculation about his future swirling. But those distractions are nothing like what all comes with having LaVar Ball’s children on your team, and LeBron is a significantly better player than any of them. I cannot imagine being a GM of a team and wanting any part of this circus.

Of course, we can tie all this together and make it topical to this site by bringing the Cavaliers into the discussion. Yes, what happens with the Lakers could potentially impact the Cavaliers. Going back to Goodman’s original interview with LaVar, Ball ended by bringing LeBron into the conversation:

“LeBron’s coming to L.A. I know he’s coming to L.A.,” Ball said. “LeBron is not a fool. What’s the only way he can beat Jordan? You can’t get more championships. Only one way, to say every team I’ve gone to I’ve won a championship. Go to Lakers and win a championship, then you’re better than Jordan.

“You can’t give my son the best player in the league, and don’t expect them not to win. Get rid of everybody. Give him LeBron and Gelo [LiAngelo Ball]. You got a 2 and a 3. And it’s a win. It’s a wrap. Then all you need are two rebounders — [Julius] Randle and [Larry] Nance Jr.”
But even with James, Ball doesn’t feel that Walton is the right man to lead the Lakers to a title.

“Even if you bring in a LeBron or a [Paul] George, he can’t coach them guys,” he said. “What is he gonna tell them? He’s too young. He has no control.”

I do think the Lakers are a serious threat to the Cavs for LeBron’s future services. If the Cavaliers don’t make any moves to improve and the team limps into the playoffs again, I could see LeBron looking to go somewhere else again, and the Lakers would be an enticing landing spot. But it’s also hard to imagine LeBron wanting any part of the LaVar Ball show.

I think there is a pretty limited number of spots LeBron would leave Cleveland for. The prestige of the Los Angeles Lakers makes them one of those spots, but LaVar Ball could actually be doing Cleveland a huge favor by taking the Lakers out of consideration.

Coverage of the Ball family is unquestionably exhausting, but there’s an inexplicable element to it that seems to draw people in. It’s inescapable and it seems like it is everywhere we turn in sports coverage. I don’t know how this will all end, but it’s been incredibly strange to watch this story develop and consume everything in basketball over the last year.

  1. We live in a simply horrible time for neutral fans of sports. The NBA is so anti-climatic if you’re not a Cavs fan or Golden State Warriors fan. The New England Patriots are seemingly in the Super Bowl just about every season. Alabama is in the playoffs every year in college football. It seems like we have to look to the college basketball tournament or baseball to get any sense of parity these days. []
  2. To be clear, I know this is a niche site and in no way am I saying this is adding to the national conversation. []

  • RGB
  • RGB

    I’ve made it a point to minimize my Four Letter viewing to next to nothing. Unless it’s a specific sporting event, I have found other sources to get my sports info from.

  • I’m glad you said Four Letter viewing and not Four Letter reading, because, WFNY.

  • MartyDaVille

    The LaVar Ball story won’t go away because? . . . because? . . . anyone? anyone? Schnitkey?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/03bed68e4fdbb02ae8fc141c002423abc1fd7e5e4f88ee1f55025fb08c0de507.jpg

  • scripty

    Lavar Ball gave everybody a year of being annoying to realize he was a buffoon and would continue to be annoying. I feel bad for Luke Walton on a personal level but he is paid millions to deal with this stuff. Laker Mgmt hung him out on that one.

  • Steve

    Because of the same reason people watch the Kardashians, as Kerr mentioned, or Pro Wrasslin’, or think a famous entertainer with no political experience would be qualified to hold the office of president. We like manufactured drama. A lot.

  • BenRM

    LaVar Ball is the new “Tim Tebow to the Jets.” Everyone knew that Tebow couldn’t play QB. But ESPN shoved it down everyone’s many throats anyway.

    Everyone knows LaVar Ball is a world class snake-oil salesman. But ESPN is shoving it down everyone’s throats anyway.

    Similar to how they were pimping Brady’s TB13 snake-oil salesman until very recently.

  • Tron

    The thing that is the most controversial is that if we are going to be totally honest, Lavar is right. The Lakers have lost what, 9 in a row? They lost by 20 and 30 points in that span? I mean, if you’re serious about being a competitor and about winning how can you say that Luke Walton has a future there? And if you listen to the audio of Lavar Ball’s critique he is more restrained than the article gives him credit for. I believe he says he isn’t saying that Walton should be fired, only that he has lost the locker room. Can anyone say that that assessment is wrong?

    And as for Lebron he’s probably right about that too. I doubt Lebron will be in Cleveland next season. And he probably will go to LA because he IS chasing Michael Jordan. It’s sad as Lavar Ball is a douche bag but the things he says are pretty accurate.

  • mgbode

    To take this a bit more on a local level. Here is one of the top all-time WFNY read articles. It has remained in the Top 10 views per month every month since it first posted. It is still getting tons of page views.

    Why? Someone, somewhere decided to put it at the bottom banner on some ad link. Those articles that you refuse to click with the salacious headlines? Well, either accidentally or because people get curious seeing the same thing over time, they get clicked…

    http://waitingfornextyear.com/2014/10/allie-clifton-tristan-thompson-kiss-twitter/

  • mgbode

    If LeBron is chasing Jordan, then wouldn’t he go to a better team and preferrably one that didn’t have to compete with the Rockets and Warriors (possibly Spurs) in the playoffs?

  • mgbode

    But at least Tebow gave us a moment of the Steelers being devastated. Where is such a heart-warming moment from Ball?

  • Tron

    Are you saying he’s not chasing Jordan? Are you saying the Cavs give him the best chance to win?

  • BenRM

    That was pre-Jets Tebow! Post-Jets Tebow was a shade of the Steeler Killer.

  • CBiscuit

    Hmm, that emergency vehicle looks more like a morning show DJ or a party bus. I sort of expect the back to fly open and two dancing nurses to come out, followed by a doctor carrying a a shot of tequila.

  • JM85

    This why I stick to local media and not national.

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    You can never take that memory from me though!

  • mgbode

    I’m saying the Lakers do not.

  • RGB

    I bet he’s going to kill it in the CFL.

  • Tron

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying I think he will be a Laker next year and Lavar Ball will once again be proven right.

    Care to make a friendly wager that Lebron is on the Lakers next season? The loser will kindly post “you were right” to the other after we know the outcome.

  • CBiscuit

    “It’s an emergency! We need to get this ambulance to Vegas. Give the driver 2 liters of RedBull and one gram of something STAT!”

  • mgbode

    Sure, why not 🙂

  • RGB

    And a bottle of Cristal.
    Better make that 7.

  • CBI

    I’ll take that action. I could see LeBron going to the Bucks, Spurs, Rockets or even the Warriors before going to the Lakers. Lebron could turn that team into a contender, but even with Paul George, no way is that mess going to be able to win a championship(s). It just aint the same since Dr. Buss passed.

  • Tron

    Haha alright we’ll see!

  • tsm

    Regardless of who reports what about LaVar, the easy answer is to ignore anything written about or by him. Who cares what LaVar thinks?
    As far as the Saban comment, I just wish Urban had the same hard nosed attitude about his QB. Haskins was obviously a better passer than Barrett, and he should have replace him in the Iowa game at a minimum. Watch how much better the O is next season.

  • Chris

    Some real hard-hitting reporting on that one. WFNY Classic

  • CBI

    Also the “Chasing Jordan” thing is a bit of an pipedream for Lebron supporters at this point. Even if he ends up winning 6 championships (which, by the way, would only tie him for 10th overall), Jordan fans will simply cling to the 6 finals MVPs. Lebron’s ability to maintain an MVP level of play through his 15 years in the league has been awe-inspiring, but I don’t think he’ll be able to maintain it long enough to get 3 more finals MVPs.

  • mgbode

    It will be difficult for Jordan defenders to pit the discussion against what is likely to be a better overall career (given number of seasons at an elite level) if he ties him in championships. They still will, but they will have far less footing. I mean, Kyrie Irving is sticking to his Flat Earth stuff after all (I thought for sure he was kidding when that first came out.).

  • mgbode

    Had something for everybody.

    Really though, at that moment, it was important for the site to publish because of Dwyer’s hit piece. That it still gets the clicks though is sort of a running joke behind the scenes.

  • CBI

    Educated Jordan defenders and square earth enthusiasts like myself, yes. As for my sports-talk-radio brethren who continue to scream “SIX ‘SHIPS!” every time someone tries to compare two players who are so different physically and in their style of play, won’t be putting down the dead horse beating stick anytime soon.

  • Chris

    Billy Manziel, EMT

  • CBI

    Oooo… Thats a top 10 list I’d like to see.

  • Steve

    ESPN doesn’t shove it down our throats, more like people ask it be shoved down their throat. The Ball family does well in the ratings.

  • mgbode

    You can pretty much click on the Browns tab and scroll down 🙂

  • CBI

    When I click on the Browns tab the articles are sorted by date, newest to oldest. Is there a way to change the sort order I’m missing?

  • mgbode

    (it was a joke because the Browns articles dominate our views)

  • RGB

    You need to post a Top-10 Commented On list. (I’ll guess last year’s draft article is #1)
    We need something to occupy the pre-draft dead zone.

  • CBI
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