The photo above is likely the last time anyone will be seeing LiAngelo Ball in an official Los Angeles Lakers jersey, because despite working out Lonzo Ball’s brother, the team has no interest in putting LiAngelo on their summer league roster. And shouts to David Stern, but the decision came because of more than just basketball reasons.
Lakers officially informed LiAngelo Ball he will not be on their Summer League team last night. They were determined to make this a basketball decision but as one source put it, “obviously there’s more to it than basketball.” In other words— the LaVar effect was real.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 22, 2018
LiAngelo had told the media after the workout that he didn’t think his father, LaVar Ball, would affect his draft stock, saying “no, I don’t worry too much about what my dad is doing. I know what I’m about. I’m here playing for these guys, playing for the Lakers.”
However, it seems that at least in part because of his father’s outspokenness, the Lakers didn’t want to deal with more Balls in their family.
"How come they don't want me, man?" pic.twitter.com/FdzdnSWIvu— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) June 22, 2018
That LaVar affect noted, it’s worth pointing out that even if LaVar was the Lakers’ dream sports parent, LiAngelo would have been highly unlikely to get drafted (Update: Bill Oram of the Athletic made it clear this was just as much responsible for LiAngelo not being a part of the Lakers’ summer league plans):
When it comes to LiAngelo Ball and summer league, a Lakers source said "talent-wise he just didn't make the cut" and that the team "felt like we had better options on the table."— Bill Oram (@billoram) June 22, 2018
On that note, LiAngelo wasn’t among the top 100 prospects on Jonathan Givony in ESPN’s draft rankings, a sign that him getting drafted in a 60-pick draft would have been a borderline miracle. And it’s not just Givony saying that: If you can find a reputable mock draft or rankings that had LiAngelo getting selected, you’re welcome to comment with it below.
Still, as proven by the three players the Lakers have already added in undrafted free agency, prospects don’t have to get drafted, or even be in the top 100 in the class to get a summer league invite. As Shelburne’s source noted, this decision wasn’t made solely on LiAngelo’s basketball ability. Given that the Cleveland Cavaliers have put LeBron James’ friends on their summer league team in the past and that JR Smith’s brother once got a contract from the New York Knicks seemingly only based off of family ties, getting a roster spot out of nepotism isn’t out of the question in the NBA.
What this does signal is that the Lakers are not interested in jumping further into the LaVar Ball business, if that wasn’t clear already. Lonzo is a talented enough prospect for the team to justify dealing with his father’s antics, but if LaVar was complaining about how Lonzo — who had one of the biggest roles on the team last season — was used, then there was no way they wanted to see how he’d react if LiAngelo got a shot and didn’t make the team, or didn’t play enough minutes for their liking in the G League, or some other such scenario.
It’s hard to fault the Lakers for that, even if all of this extra scrutiny isn’t super fair to LiAngelo, who definitely doesn’t ask for any of this in his understated media appearances and with his low-key demeanor. Still, those are the breaks if your dad claims a team’s head coach has lost the team and complains to the media about how your brother is used, so this isn’t very surprising, either.