However, with each passing day, more details are starting to pour out that give fans a better idea of the things Johnson had to deal with during his time as an executive.
On Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that one of the final breaking points for Johnson during his time with the Lakers involved an unauthorized surgery with Lonzo Ball:
One of the headaches and near-debacles of the final stretch of Johnson’s tenure came in late February. In what could have been a catastrophe, the Lakers needed to prevent point guard Lonzo Ball from undergoing a potential unauthorized surgery on his left ankle that was planned by estranged former business partner Alan Foster and with LaVar Ball’s knowledge, multiple team and league sources told The Athletic.
Lonzo Ball traveled to Ohio in late February to potentially go through with a procedure on his injured ankle, pushed by Foster, a source familiar with the situation told The Athletic. The family had experience with the doctor who would perform the procedure as he had also operated on LiAngelo Ball, the source said.
Once the Lakers learned of Ball’s situation, they intervened and prevented Ball from getting the surgery:
The Lakers found out about Ball’s situation when Lonzo Ball called General Manager Rob Pelinka, and the organization informed him that they would not allow it and could void his contract if he went through with the procedure, sources said. The Lakers then arranged transportation to bring Ball home, sources said. This could have been a disastrous moment for the Lakers, with a core player potentially undergoing a procedure that could have blindsided the organization. But Johnson and Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka communicated with those around Lonzo, working with his then-agent Harrison Gaines to squash the procedure and bring him back to Los Angeles, sources around the team with knowledge of the situation said. Gaines declined to comment when reached by phone.
Johnson and Pelinka then accompanied Ball to his doctor appointments to ensure the guard was back on track with the Lakers’ rehab regimen, league sources said. Sources around the Lakers say Johnson frequently spent time around his players, such as Brandon Ingram and Ball, during times they were undergoing medical recovery.
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times confirmed the report, and noted that it’s possible Ball could still have the surgery, though nothing is imminent:
Lonzo Ball did indeed nearly have ankle surgery with an unauthorized doctor. Lakers could have voided his contract if he did it. Ultimately he was convinced to return to Los Angeles and Jeanie Buss sent a plane to bring him back. It’s unclear if he still plans to have surgery.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) April 12, 2019
It’s worth noting that Foster is being blamed for pushing for that surgery, so now that he’s excised from Lonzo’s camp, maybe this stuff will change. However, while the report doesn’t say exactly when in February this whole mess occurred, if it happened before the NBA trade deadline on February 5, the situation gives another inkling of legitimacy to the theory that Ball and his camp are doing everything they can to stay in Los Angeles.
If you can recall back to last summer, at the height of the Kawhi Leonard trade rumors, it was leaked that Ball had suffered a torn meniscus at some point during the season. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers were unhappy that the news was leaked in the midst of trade negotiations and accused Ball’s camp of releasing that information.
LaVar Ball eventually denied that he personally leaked that news, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t come from Lonzo’s camp, even if LaVar was telling the truth. And, as these things keep happening, it’s starting to look like there’s fire where the smoke has been coming from. Maybe these are just big coincidences, but this stuff starts to add up after a while.
Hopefully Ball’s change in representation will prevent fishy things like his happening in the future, but this definitely isn’t a good look for the young point guard.