Oram: Magic Johnson taking Lonzo Ball under his wing

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Ball looked up. Baylor, Goodrich, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal, Worthy, West. Johnson.“We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there, all right?” Johnson said.LaVar Ball nodded enthusiastically from his front row seat, while the soft-spoken Lonzo mumbled an agreement.So much for the notion that the Lakers would try to minimize the pressure the garrulous LaVar Ball has heaped on his son. They will amplify it. In a single breath, Johnson anointed Ball “the new face of the Lakers” and “the guy who will lead us back to where we want to get to.”Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka are staking their credibility as NBA executives to Ball.This is how Johnson welcomed Ball because this is also how the revered Dr. Buss welcomed him. The relationship between Buss and Johnson is of legend, the pair out on the town, going to boxing matches together, the Kings of L.A. It was that relationship that ultimately guided Jeanie Buss to replace her real brother, Jim, with the man who her dad always treated like another son.For all of the talk show hours expended on LaVar Ball and his influence on his son, the relationship that might prove to matter more, at least as far as the Lakers are concerned, is a paternal bond between Johnson and the point guard he plans to take under his wing the same way Buss did him.“I already told him that,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go to lunch and dinners. We’re going to sit and watch film together. We’re going to do a lot of different things. It’s not just basketball. It’s also life. I told him that. We’re going to sit and just talk.”If there’s pressure being drafted in the lottery by a team with 16 championships, how much is that amplified when you are hand-picked by Magic Johnson himself to carry on his legacy?Ball shrugged.“It’s not just me. (It’s) playing basketball,” Lonzo said, “which I’ve been playing my whole life. It’s fun to me. It’s fun here. I’m not really worried about all that.”The Lakers believe Ball is uniquely equipped to handle that pressure. The same way Kobe Bryant was. Same as Magic.“There’s a lot of pressure when you come here,” Johnson said. “We knew that he could handle the pressure of being a Laker, Los Angeles and Hollywood at the same time.”Everything eventually comes back to the court, where Ball will either live up to the hype, or will make like most of those 90 other draft picks: no jersey on the wall, their number thrown back into the bin and recycled for the next generation.Johnson, of course, does not believe that will be the case for his protégé. Ball will be the one leading the Lakers down the court for years, but as Johnson described what he envisioned he himself was on a fast break.“Watch out, Larry Nance on that lob. Wow!”Johnson’s eyes started to dance.“Julius Randle coming down the middle with that left hand.”Johnson whistled.“Big Zu back there trailing. Bam!”By the time he was done, Johnson’s shoulders were rocking side to side, as if he himself were navigating around hapless defenders, zipping those perfect passes. Not to Nance, Randle and Ivica Zubac, but to James Worthy, Michael Cooper and Byron Scott.“Don’t get me started,” Johnson said, beaming, “because you’re going to see highlight moments from this young man just by passing the basketball. And Laker fans are used to that. We’re used to great leaders. That’s why we win.”Johnson is building the team in his image. Armed with charisma, confidence and a kid named Ball, he is hoping for more Lakers magic. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“Watching so much tape of him,” Johnson said, “you see yourself.”You do if you’re Magic.The Lakers have drafted 90 players in the 38 years since Johnson arrived in Los Angeles. Never had any of them arrived with the fanfare and pressure that preceded Johnson’s introduction by Dr. Jerry Buss and Jerry West at the Forum on a June day in 1979.Then on Thursday, Johnson welcomed Lonzo Ball.Before he handed Ball his No. 2 jersey on Thursday in front of local and national media at the Lakers practice facility, Johnson faced his new protégé and warned that he was about to put some pressure on him. “You look to your right, there’s some jerseys hanging on that wall.”center_img EL SEGUNDO >> The first son born into a basketball family, Lonzo Ball was bred for stardom. What he knew about Magic Johnson, a superstar who last played in the NBA a year before he was born, came from the stories his father, LaVar, told and what he could glean from the grainy footage of games that replayed on cable television.“It was a pleasure to watch,” Lonzo said Thursday. “(I could) learn a lot from him.”So is it any surprise that when the roles were flipped this spring, and it was Johnson studying footage of Ball, that what the old Lakers great saw looked familiar?last_img read more

Friday’s Elf on the Shelf clue…

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