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Your move, L.A.: Magic and Lakers must hold LaVar Ball accountable

From ESPN - January 8, 2018

Nobody, not even the Los Angeles Lakers, can act surprised that LaVar Ball told ESPN's Jeff Goodman that head coach Luke Walton has lost the team, all but calling for Walton to be fired amid a nine-game losing streak.

Nobody.

The Lakers may have gone into this relationship wearing rose-colored glasses, but their eyes were wide-open. They scouted Lonzo Ball extensively at UCLA. They had the Bruins' coaching staff over to their offices before the draft. They even drove to the Ball house in Chino Hills, California, to look LaVar in the eye and get a sense of who he was beyond the headlines and television interviews.

"They may not want to hear that, but it's going to be successful if you listen to what I am saying on that fact, that I know what it takes for my son to run like this."

LaVar Ball, on requests to tone down his criticisms of Lakers coach Luke Walton

Ball looked back at them and said he would not upstage the Lakers or their staff if they drafted his son. As Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told ESPN in July, Ball told him, "Earvin, look, I am not following my son. I am not going to be hanging out in L.A."

Ball confirmed Johnson's recollection, adding: "As far as training my boy, this is as far as I can take him. I will leave it up to you to take him further. You can get him better with the film time and the coaching. You can take him to another level. I trust you with my boy."

All of those quotes were on the record, which means Johnson and LaVar Ball must both be held accountable for them. Johnson for not calling Ball out publicly once he began to break his promise and for not defending his coach. And Ball for not upholding his word, which puts his son Lonzo in the position of having to choose between defying his father or selling out his coach.

Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka met privately with LaVar Ball on Nov. 29, asking him to tone down his criticisms of Walton or, at the very least, to come to them before teeing off on the second-year coach.

In that meeting, Ball again told the Lakers what they wanted to hear. But this time, he left himself a very public out, telling ESPN, "I am going to say, to plant a seed, 'Let's look for this now.' They may not want to hear that, but it's going to be successful if you listen to what I am saying on that fact, that I know what it takes for my son to run like this."

Those quotes were all on the record, too. That should have been enough for the Lakers to know that Ball would never stop his criticism of Walton or anyone who does not bend to his will.

But instead of publicly standing behind their coach, or at least admonishing Ball privately, the organization has stuck with a policy of not giving him any oxygen. It was a nice way of handling it. A classy way of letting him promote his business, Big Baller Brand, without standing in his way.

It was also a bit naive in this era of instant hot takes, cable news and social media.

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