Plenty of people within the Los Angeles Lakers are no doubt worried about how appealing they’ll be to LeBron James (player option) and Paul George (player option) in free agency.
Lonzo Ball doesn’t appear to be one of them.
The Lakers’ players were asked about the team’s impending summertime plans following the end of their regular season, because of course they were. The Lakers have been all-in on poaching superstar free agents for some time, and they have the flexibility to dredge up two max slots this year. There’s no avoiding the topic. There’s also this sense that everyone feels—or felt—pressure to impress those around the league, including George and James.
Ball, however, never thought in those terms, as he told reporters (via ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk):
Lonzo Ball says he did not feel pressure to show free agents like Paul George and LeBron James what he can do.
“Whether it be LeBron, Paul George, or whoever, if they liked it, they liked it. If they didn’t, they didn’t. I can’t do anything about it now.”
Ball didn’t have to answer the question like this. Kyle Kuzma sure didn’t. He talked up Los Angeles.
But there’s nothing wrong with Ball’s answer. In fact, you could argue it’s better than Kuzma’s response. It’s less likely to come across as desperate, because, well, there isn’t a hint of desperation in it. Ball is evaluating the Lakers independent of players who don’t already play for them. In a way, that says the Lakers don’t need to get caught up in the George and James hype. And that, in turn, should make them more appealing to the outside world.
Nothing’s worse than obvious desperation, after all. And Ball’s answer fits in theme with the Lakers’ growth. They have a nice young base in place with Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Julius Randle. They’d mortgage the farm to get LeBron or PG13, but they also no longer need to get one or both of them. They’re set up to assemble something special from the ground up, giving them an infrastructure that should catch the attention of marquee names.