Almost every year UCLA basketball is special. While it is way too early to say what I am about to say, as this is a UCLA Blog in the doldrums of summer, I’ll say it: Lonzo Ball will be the next Bruin NBA All Star.
He was the MVP of the NBA summer league:
Lonzo Ball was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League before he sat out Monday's championship game due to a calf injury.
The Los Angeles Lakers' second overall pick took home the honor after averaging 16.3 points, a summer league-leading 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. . . .
Lakers summer league coach Jud Buechler pointed out how Ball won summer league MVP despite not playing in all of the Lakers' eight games. Ball missed one game with a groin injury and another game with his calf injury.
"He was just incredible," Buechler said. "He really was. Really happy for him to get the MVP. One of the most impressive things is he missed two games and only played half of one game and still got the MVP. He really creates the environment where when one of your top players is sharing the ball like that, it's just contagious with everybody else."
I can’t remember the last time a person was MVP while missing 25% of the games. For the Summer League, at least, he lived up to LaVar’s hype. But since he is LaVar’s son his actions on the court weren’t enough. He also created a sensation with his shoes. Not with his infamously priced Big Baller Brand shoes but rather the fact he kept changing his shoe brands:
Lonzo Ball wore his own signature shoes, the $495 Big Baller Brand ZO2s, for the first two games of the Summer League. Then, when Ball returned from injury, he wore Nike Kobe ADs and proceeded to have his best performance of the Summer League.
He went on to wear signature shoes of Adidas’ James Harden and Under Armour’s Stephen Curry the next two game, continuing to put up impressive numbers. On the surface, the whole “switching it up” of the footwear seemed like a gimmick with a motive in mind. It just didn’t make sense for Lonzo to be wearing the signature shoes of other NBA stars rather than giving exposure to his own brand. It had to be a LaVar Ball marketing ploy, right?
Well, according to LaVar, it basically was — but the motivation was spiteful.
LaVar Ball acknowledged his son Lonzo is wearing different shoe brands as both a temptation and invitation to the brands that passed on him.
"It's making a statement to the brands of what they could have had with an open mind," Ball said via text message. "The players are the brand ambassadors. The brand is nothing without the players."
I actually think this could have been a nice message. I am sick of the focus on shoes as college recruits are literally choosing schools based on shoe contracts. Of course, this is LaVar who is the biggest huckster since PT Barnum.
The reality is my opening statement is too hyperbolic. Ball has a lot of potential but he is not an All Star . . . yet.
And people overreacted.
And other people advised them not to overreact, but it was too tempting.
And Lonzo Ball was the center of attention.
More than a week later, all three of those statements still apply, but the nature of the (over)reactions couldn’t be more different. Lonzo led the Lakers to a Las Vegas Summer League title with enthralling performance after enthralling performance, his unrivaled passing ability on full display. He was named MVP despite sitting out two games, including the final. He’s suddenly the toast of L.A., and the subject of newly-formed basketball addictions for viewers around the world.
Yet the advice still stands. In fact, the contrast between July 7 Lonzo opinions and July 17 Lonzo opinions is why the advice was given in the first place. Not that we need yet another cautionary tale to guard against summer league overreactions, but let Lonzo’s 10 days in Vegas serve as one. He was immediately stunning. Then he was a disappointing. Then he won back the label of franchise cornerstone.
Lonzo is part of what makes UCLA special for basketball. UCLA counts as its graduates the current NBA MVP in Russell Westbrook, with Lonzo Ball it could have a future one. While that statement is incredibly premature, thanks to LaVar the hype machine for Lonzo is in overdrive. The reality is Lonzo is fun and will be a joy to watch him develop in the pros.
And it all started at UCLA. Go Bruins!