Lonzo Ball was far from the only member of the Los Angeles Lakers to get shipped out when the team completed their blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis this summer. He wasn’t even the only No. 2 overall pick, as Brandon Ingram was included in the deal.
He was the only player included, however, that just two years ago was being told that their jersey was going to hang in the rafters in Staples Center, and the only one being asked by then president of basketball operations Magic Johnson to leave some of his records intact.
But while Ball may have been sold as a franchise player initially, he never really reached that status with the Lakers. On the court, he never came close to threatening any of Johnson’s records, and off of it he never sniffed the type of power and insight offered to franchise cornerstones.
Instead, Ball was unceremoniously shipped out of L.A. in a trade for a player the team hopes can be a true pillar of the organization moving forward, and Ball revealed during an appearance on Real 92.3 L.A. that he learned he was gone the same way most of the rest of us did: On Twitter.
“I found out on Twitter. We was in the car, we had just left my grandfather’s house on the way to Melo’s Drew League game. And then D-Mo asked me ‘have you seen Twitter?’ I said ‘nah’ and then he was like ‘you just got traded.’
Q: So there’s no head’s up out of respect? ... Is that the way the world works in sports?
“I mean, that’s just how I found out. I don’t know everybody’s situation, but that’s how we all found out.”
So on its face that doesn’t sound like a great look for an organization that constantly trumpets how well it treats its players, but the context of the originally messy Davis trade talks makes drawing actual conclusions about the Lakers’ tactics here a bit more complicated.
Back at the 2019 trade deadline in February, the talks between L.A. and New Orleans saw endless leaks that not only blew up both locker rooms, but also helped lead to significant overhaul in both franchise’s front offices. Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was fired, while it’s not hard to imagine that part of the reason Magic Johnson stepped down was all the criticism he took for how the team handled that saga.
Why is that relevant now? Well, because it probably necessitated the Lakers and Pelicans playing things a bit closer to the vest this time, as there was very little news on these trade talks until after the deal was agreed to. In order to avoid those tidbits getting out in the media, it’s likely that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka probably wasn’t keeping anyone aside from owner Jeanie Buss and a select few others in the front office apprised of what stage the trade talks for Davis were in.
There is also the reality that in Ball’s case specifically, there is a history of his camp seemingly attempting to keep him out of trade talks by any means necessary once looped in. When the Lakers were in talks with the San Antonio Spurs to trade for Kawhi Leonard during the summer of 2018, it leaked that Ball had suffered a torn meniscus at some point during the prior season. The Lakers were reportedly unhappy that the news was leaked in the midst of negotiations for Leonard, and accused Ball’s camp of releasing that information.
Then, back at the trade deadline, there was the Ball camp doing everything they could to gum up the trade for Davis, with his father LaVar going on-record to say they didn’t want him in New Orleans, in addition to multiple leaks beforehand that Ball would prefer other teams to the Pelicans.
Later on, it was reported that one of the breaking points for Johnson that caused him to leave the Lakers was that around the time of the trade deadline — the exact timing isn’t clear — Johnson and Pelinka reportedly had to stop Ball from getting a surgery on his ankle the team hadn’t authorized.
Add all of that up, and it’s hard to blame the Lakers for feeling like they couldn’t loop Ball or their other players in on the status of the Davis trade talks, although one would think they could have still at least called the players before the deal was leaked to the media.
Nevertheless, Ball said on the radio that he’s “excited” for a “new beginning” with the Pelicans, and said he wasn’t surprised to eventually be traded, even if it’s a decision he says any player would take personally:
Q: Were you pissed at first?
“Nah, I kind of knew I was going to get traded... I’d just been in trade talks for so long, and then it’s Anthony Davis. You know L.A. is going to do what they’re going to do to get a superstar. So I kind of had a feeling.”
Q: Do you take any of that personal?
“I think you should. Because I mean they got rid of you. They don’t want you no more. So yeah, you’ve got to take it personal.”
Perhaps that’s why Ball recently rapped that the Lakers would “regret their decision” to deal him, an ignominious end to a relationship that seemed to start off so promising. Still, despite the seeming existence of hard feelings for Ball right now, it’s possible this is a rare win-win trade, with the Lakers getting the star they wanted, and Ball getting the fresh start he needed. If that’s how things work out, the Lakers won’t regret how things went, and maybe Ball eventually won’t begrudge them for it either.