NBA Teams
Baxter Holmes, ESPN Staff Writer 154d

Lonzo Ball stays home, picked by Lakers as No. 2 overall pick

NBA, UCLA Bruins, Los Angeles Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Since last fall, the Los Angeles Lakers and Lonzo Ball have seemed destined to collide: a storied, star-starved franchise in tatters but bound for the NBA lottery, where a homegrown star who helped resurrect the hallowed UCLA Bruins would be waiting.

Throughout his freshman campaign in Westwood, Ball, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound point guard reared in Chino Hills by his outspoken father, LaVar, delivered the sort of flashy highlights -- no-look passes, moonbeam 3-pointers and sky-walking slams -- that the Lakers have always craved.

On Thursday night, that destiny was realized.

The Lakers selected Ball second overall in the draft, giving them another promising young guard as they rebuild and setting up a season of intrigue about how Ball -- and, by proxy, his father's dominant presence -- will impact the NBA's glamour franchise.

"This is crazy. It's crazy. You can't really tell with my emotion [over the phone]. But I feel good and I'm happy to be home," Ball said on a conference call with reporters following his selection.

Ball marks the first high-profile draftee under the new regime of Rob Pelinka, the Lakers' general manager, and Magic Johnson, their president of basketball operations and the player whom Ball patterned his game after.

"I couldn't ask for anything more -- to be able to learn from [Johnson] every day is truly a blessing," Ball said. 

Once the pingpong balls delivered the Lakers the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft on May 16, fate appeared in control. 

"It is a wonderful feeling, but I already knew what was coming to him," LaVar said after his son's selection, making yet another guarantee -- that Lonzo will lead the Lakers back to the playoffs next season.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid posed a challenge to teammate Ben Simmons to show up Lonzo Ball next year.

Ball said he looks forward to working with his new teammates, especially Brandon Ingram, the team's top pick last year.

"That was just his first year, and he did a lot," Ball said of Ingram. "I feel he's going to be a superstar in this league."

Johnson and Pelinka assumed their posts last season during a dramatic coup in which Lakers president and governor Jeanie Buss cleaned house, vowing change after the team plummeted to the NBA's cellar with four straight 50-plus-loss seasons, the worst stretch in franchise history.

"They have a lot of good players," Ball told reporters after his first workout with the Lakers. "I just think they need a leader, a point guard. I feel like I can bring that to the team."

Lakers coach Luke Walton said Ball would fit the leader profile.

"As a leader, guys are going to naturally gravitate towards somebody who wants to make them better," Walton said. "And to me, he's the type of player that when he's on the floor, all four guys that are out there with him become better instantly, and that's a quality and a trait that not many people have.

"The great ones all have it, and we hope that by the way he plays everyone else on our team becomes better."

Ball averaged 14.6 points, a Division I-leading 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season with the Bruins. He led UCLA to a 31-5 record after it went 15-17 the season before.

His 274 assists marked the third-most by a freshman in Division I history. He was the first Pac-12 player to average at least 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a single season since Jason Kidd.

"We want to get the ball moving and push the pace, and that's what Ball's a genius at," Walton said. 

And of the Lakers taking a hometown player, Walton said of the fans, "I think they'll love it. Honestly, I've been walking around town, and people were going nuts for him before the draft happened."

Interestingly, over the past 20 seasons, only five major conference players have averaged at least 14 points, six assists and six rebounds in a single season. Ball is among that exclusive group, and so is Walton, who did so at Arizona in 2001-02.

Though his unorthodox shooting form has been criticized, Ball shot 73.2 percent from the field on 2-point attempts and 41.2 percent from 3-point range last season, becoming the first player over the past 25 seasons to attempt 300 field goals and shoot 70 percent on 2s and 40 percent on 3s.

Ball enters the league with his own signature shoe -- retailing at $495 -- and marks yet another Bruin to reach the Lakers, a pipeline of talent that has included Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar.

Ball also marks the first UCLA player to be drafted among the first two picks since Dave Greenwood was selected No. 2 overall in 1979 by the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers also picked North Carolina's Tony Bradley at No. 28, but Bradley is headed to the Utah Jazz for the 30th and 42nd picks in the draft, who became Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant, respectively.

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