Dec. 11-- LaVar Ball is to the NBA what the Kardashians are to television. That is to say, his only real talent is self-promotion and noise creation, which in today's social landscape is all one needs to become a celebrity or the U.S. President.
For most of us, LaVar Ball is easy to tune out even when he's impossible to turn off. But for his son, Lonzo, the nonstop hype has created a target that has made it unreasonable to develop on a realistic timeline.
"He has the potential to be a really good player. But I feel like his dad is putting too much pressure on him. That's why whoever plays against him just wants to kill him, just wants to beat him on that court, just because his dad is talking all that crazy stuff," Knicks center Enes Kanter told the Daily News. "If he leaves him alone, I think it's going to better for the kid because it's not going to be that much pressure. That's why I feel like he just needs to leave him alone and play his game."
The Balls make their Garden debut (yes, the whole family is in town) with the Lakers on Tuesday, with Lonzo carrying an atrocious 32 percent shooting average and a 10-15 record as the starting point guard. He has not taken the NBA by storm as his father predicted, nor provided much evidence to suggest he's in the same stratosphere as Steph Curry.
Opposing point guards salivate at the opportunity to derail this overhyped train, adding a layer of obstacles for a 20-year-old who just isn't ready.
Put it like this: if LeBron James is thinking about joining the Lakers as a free agent, the team's status at the quarter pole of the season is a deterrent. Of course, it's obscenely early for any real determination on Lonzo's future as a basketball player. He has shown glimpses of distinction with two triple-doubles and, if the 20-year-old really is special, the Garden always brings out the best of those types.
But LaVar? The evidence is already in that he's an awful egomaniac and a hindrance. Only in this environment can sexism and pulling kids from school successfully build up a brand.
On some level, Kristaps Porzingis can relate to Lonzo's predicament. The Latvian was also targeted as a hyped rookie, accumulating resentment during his meteoric rise in the largest media market. The difference was his father didn't stoke the flames, and instead of falling beneath the expectations, Porzingis quickly rose above.
"I definitely felt that guys were testing me early on," Porzingis told the News. "Even in practice, me and (teammate Lance Thomas) were going to at it. He wanted to see if I was tough enough and if I could play in the league. In Puerto Rico, in Melo's camp (before my rookie season), things like that. Guys want to test me, especially a European coming into the league.
"And for (Lonzo), it's also more like the toughest position in the NBA is the point guard. Being the starting point guard every night having to play against a great point guard, it's tough. A lot of guys don't like the hype he's getting for nothing. And that's why they're going after him."
Ironically, Porzingis conveys more bravado than Lonzo, who is mostly vanilla in interviews. Porzingis said his own ability to block out distractions-which have been aplenty during his short Knicks career-became a benefit.
"I think for everybody is different. For me, I just didn't care. My brothers say all the time that I'm just too dumb to know what's going on. I don't really care what's going on in the outside," Porzingis said. "I wasn't bothered by the boos at all when I got drafted. I was happy. For everybody it's different. I think that's a good quality that I have that I don't really give a (expletive)."
Whether Lonzo is bothered by his distractions, the reality is it's a burden because the opposition uses it for its own motivation.
And Lonzo hasn't been good enough to overcome his father.
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