The Los Angeles Lakers are fresh off of their workout with Lonzo Ball, hosting the widely-speculated future No. 2 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Ball’s workout went without incident, with media only having access once all on-court activities concluded.
The front office is set to attend a workout with Josh Jackson in Sacramento on Thursday, and De’Aaaron Fox has a June 13 date with the Lakers. The picture is starting to fill out for the Lakers, who have the next two weeks to finalize their plans with an important piece of their future.
If perception is reality, Lonzo is already a Laker to many. It’s hard to see their decision going any other way, with Ball’s shooting, passing ability and local roots making it seem like a cliche Hollywood script is playing out. The most obvious answer is often the right one, but reports about the Lakers’ intent have created a cloudy picture.
Fox continues to be painted as a legitimate option in the Lakers’ eyes from various reporters, and the latest from ESPN’s Chad Ford notes that the one-on-one battle between Fox and Ball during the NCAA tourney that Magic Johnson happened to attend left a lasting impression within the organization.
De’Aaron dropped 39 points on UCLA in their March Madness battle, out-dueling Lonzo who scored 10 points with eight assists on 4-of-10 shooting.
It’s worth noting Magic decided to skip out on the unveiling of Shaquille O’Neals magnificent statue — an event feature NBA royalty — to scout the game first hand:
Hearing Magic Johnson, knowing UCLA/Kentucky is a scouting must first-hand, will reluctantly miss Shaquille O'Neal's statue ceremony tonight— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) March 24, 2017
Ford also notes that some of the perception from within the team that Ball is their preferred player is a leftover remnant from the Jim Buss-Mitch Kupchak front office.
Here’s what he had to say about the situation (via ESPN):
I also think it reflects a genuine split within the organization about whom the best long-term candidate is. Ball was a clear favorite of the prior administration run by Mitch Kupchak and still has his fans within the organization. But the Lakers also took note on how Fox outplayed Ball in their head-to-head matchup in March.
While the feeling is that Ball is a good fit with the Lakers offensively, Fox and Jackson are gritty defenders and vocal leaders on the court, something the Lakers feel the team is lacking. Jackson in particular seems to have some strong supporters in the organization who think defense should be the priority.
Defense is a definite issue for the Lakers and it would make sense that the potential in that area of both Fox and Josh Jackson could be one of the driving factors that the front office truly isn’t sure which way it’s leaning.
Or, all of these reports are smoke screens, as these same reporters are saying the Lakers are trying to create, and Lonzo finished punching his ticket to the Lakers over the last 48 hours.
How these next key workouts go will be important to watch, but expect this kind of leveraging coming from different directions to continue until the pick is officially announced on June 22.