For as much as Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to very clearly and publicly make it obvious that they considered Lonzo Ball the future of the team last season, this summer has served as just as much of a rebuttal, a months-long message to his camp that Lonzo isn’t irreplaceable, and a pushback against public perception that LaVar has any say in team business.
First there was the team signing veteran guard Rajon Rondo, who is expected to compete with Ball for the Lakers’ starting point guard job, a message that nothing was going to be handed to Lonzo in his second season.
Then there was the Lakers’ leaked dissatisfaction with Lonzo’s camp for possibly leaking news of his knee injury to keep him out of trade talks, something LaVar denies.
And if really thinking about it, it’s not that hard to imagine that the idea that LaVar would have any ability to tell Johnson what to do would really bother the Lakers president of basketball operations, and so it’s not that surprising that — even though the question was obviously a joke — Johnson pushed back hard when Jimmy Kimmel asked him during an appearance on his show whether Johnson consulted LaVar before signing LeBron James:
Kimmel: Before you took this meeting with LeBron, did you speak to Lonzo Ball’s father to make sure it was okay to recruit him to be a part of the team?
Johnson: ”I would’ve called you first before I called LaVar Ball... No I didn’t call LaVar and ask permission.”
Now pushing aside how obvious it is that Johnson wouldn’t have asked permission from a player’s father to go sign arguably the best player of all time, and this is still notable because it’s the most public rebuke of LaVar your’s truly can remember from Johnson.
The Lakers did reportedly ask LaVar to tone things down last season when he claimed that Luke Walton had lost the Lakers’ locker room, but that really seemed to be the only time when something the braggadocios dad did actually bothered the organization.
And again, even though the premise of the question was obviously a joke, it’s still rare to see an executive so publicly say they don’t care about the opinion of a specific player’s family member, and even more notable given that Johnson has always made it seem publicly like he and LaVar get along just fine.
This is the first, very public shift from that, continuing what seems like a trend. While it’s clear the Lakers are still optimistic about Lonzo’s future, it also appears they’re not going to leave any doubt that they won’t be letting his father factor into their decision-making process on anything. They shouldn’t have been — and weren’t — in the first place, but it seems they want to make sure everyone knows that LaVar has nothing to do with how they do business.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.