The latest Lonzo Ball-related news happened quietly. That might be news in itself for a guy whose mere choice in footwear generates headlines.
The Los Angeles Lakers sold out the remaining 5 percent of their season-ticket inventory this week. All gone. The Lakers had 95 percent renewal from their season-ticket holders before the draft, but now that Lonzo Ball is a Laker -- and fresh off his tantalizing summer league run -- they hit capacity. After a seat-viewing open house at Staples Center, fans bought up the 600 available seats. (Last year's event yielded about 175 ticket sales).
Big crowds have already become a signature of the new Lonzo Lakers. They go hand in hand with big expectations. And big expectations, in turn, are the norm in Lakerland. It's a fan base conditioned to things working toward the best-case scenario.
That hasn't been the situation for much of this decade. The Lakers' trade for Chris Paul was rescinded by David Stern, and the trades for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard didn't produce a single playoff victory. The Lakers have been missing out on A-list free agents. Their unfamiliar run of high lottery picks has not yielded a first-team member of the All-Rookie squad (although Jordan Clarkson, a second-round pick acquired from the Washington Wizards, did grab a spot in 2015).
Ball isn't guaranteed to be All-Rookie himself among a crowded crop of guards in this draft class. His game doesn't necessarily lend itself to putting up big numbers on a nightly basis. But he does have the "It" factor. In this case, style might actually matter more than substance. The way he moves the ball -- and the way that leads teammates to pass as well -- will make an impact on the Lakers even if he isn't always the statistical beneficiary.
And people will watch. The five largest television audiences for the NBA summer league were games involving the Lakers, topping out at 1.1 million for Ball vs. No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers. With those types of Nielsen numbers, expect to see the Lakers back more regularly in the national-TV rotation next season.
There's much more than Ball. Last season, Brandon Ingram scored in double figures in 16 of his last 17 games, after hitting double digits only 19 times before the All-Star break. Clarkson is still there, either for depth or deal-making purposes. Rookie Kyle Kuzma looked good in the summer league, and the Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope without giving away any more of their 2018 salary-cap space, which will have the Lakers in the discussion with every looming free agent. Lakers fans have already commenced Photoshopping an assortment of stars into golden jerseys.
Those usually turned into wasted efforts in the past. In some cases, the Lakers might have wound up better off for losing. Would it have helped them to keep Dwight Howard or add Carmelo Anthony, a center and a ball-dominant scorer, as the league has gone away from big men and emphasized ball movement? Would the Lakers have been any better off with Phil Jackson running things instead of Jim Buss, given the way Jackson's tenure in New York played out?
This franchise revels in its fabric, and now the most beloved retired jersey, and the hoister of five banners, is back. Magic Johnson is the president, selling himself and his familiar smile as much as this team.
"Laker fans should be excited," he said right after Ball's introductory news conference. "We're back."
The fans are buying it. Literally. Good luck getting a seat next season.