Sound the alarms and shelve the conspiracy theories about his silence, because LaVar Ball has resumed publicly speaking his mind about his son Lonzo Ball, and how Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers are using him.
While speaking to someone from TMZ — because of course it was TMZ — LaVar essentially implied that the Lakers would or should fire Luke Walton if he doesn’t start playing Lonzo more.
“If he keep playing Lonzo a lot -- over 35 minutes -- he’ll stick around,” Ball says. “Less, he won’t.”
If these comments ending up causing a stir — and it seems likely that this quote, not the Lakers being on a three-game winning streak, will be leading every sports talk radio show tomorrow morning — it will hardly be the first time LaVar’s public critiques of Walton have caused a ruckus.
The thing is... Not even LeBron James is playing 35 minutes per game for the Lakers. He’s playing 34.6, while Lonzo ranks fourth on the team in minutes per game (27.2).
That may not be a ton of minutes — and plenty of people have certainly taken issue with it and think Lonzo should be playing more — but it’s not like Walton has buried him in the rotation. There are only 15 players in the entire NBA playing 35 minutes or more per night.
The other thing about this complaint from LaVar is that it assumes the Lakers’ primary concern is still developing Lonzo, or at least playing him a lot. And with James in town, that’s just not the case anymore.
Obviously the Lakers want Lonzo to develop into the best player he can be — hell, even James has shouted out how valuable he can be to the team on multiple occasions — but this is no longer a rebuild. If Lonzo is healthy enough and plays well enough to earn 35-plus minutes a night, fine. The Lakers would likely play him that much if they thought it was best for him and the team.
But Lonzo has shown flashes of inconsistency on a veteran roster, while also having knee issues in the past, so it just doesn’t make sense to throw him out there anywhere near 40 minutes a night.
Look, this is going to be a thing that people are going to feel one way or another about, which is why we’re covering it here and trying to contextualize it beyond “coming up after the break... Is Luke Walton’s job in jeopardy??” To be even more crystal clear, it is highly doubtful LaVar is speaking for the Lakers, or based on anything he’s heard. LaVar has — and probably always will — fire from the hip and speak only for LaVar.
These latest comments will create some noise — albeit less than they would have before James came to town — but if the Lakers handled “Meeting-Gate” earlier this season, this is nothing they aren’t prepared to deal with. The world will keep turning, and this likely will not impact the team in any significant way. Which is worth noting here, because a lot of people are going to come up with takes over the next 24-48 hours implying that these comments do and will matter to fill time. That’s just how this goes, regardless of if it’s true or not.