magic johnson

Lonzo Ball Works Out For Lakers, Talks Magic Johnson

After a great deal of anticipation, Lonzo Ball finally worked out for the LA Lakers on Wednesday in El Segundo

Are you the best player in the Draft?

Pinned back against a Los Angeles Lakers' background, Lonzo Ball answered the final question of his draft workout press conference with supreme confidence: "I think I am."

The local and national media had sent representatives to a summer pre-draft workout with such aggression that media members took to guessing how many cameraman and reporters had turned up. This was more than any ordinary summer workout and even dwarfed busy practice days at the facility.

"This feels like a Kobe Bryant press conference," one media member said about the camera-laced crowd.

What did Ball make of all the bright lights and press trampling one another to get his attention?

"I'm kind of used to it by now." Ball shared that following his first game at UCLA, "it's been kind of like this every time."

The workout itself was held behind closed doors and involved an emphasis on shooting. Ball doesn't plan on changing his shooting motion and did not share what other teams he will be working out with. When the cameras and press were allowed onto the practice court, a sweat-soaked Ball sat slumped in a chair.

Former Lakers champion Lamar Odom, who has become a familiar face at the facility over the summer, came over and offered the 19-year-old kid a few words of encouragement before the UCLA kid had to meet his media obligations. It was already a scene. Even before Ball makes a single pass in the NBA, he is seemingly a bigger star than all of his potential Lakers' teammates.

Ball stood up and slowly walked in front of a Lakers' sponsored banner to field about eight minutes worth of questions, and two takeaways became impossible to ignore: Earvin "Magic" Johnson had an impact on Ball as a kid and Ball believes he will be the point guard and leader for the purple and gold for the future.

"They have a lot of good players," Ball said about the current Lakers' young core. "I just think they need a leader at point guard. I feel I can bring that to the team."

Of course, the Lakers drafted D'Angelo Russell as a point guard with the no.2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, so this response seemed to cause a reaction on social media. Was this a shot at Russell? Most analysts believe Ball and Russell can play together in the Lakers' backcourt, assuming both players improve defensively. Had the polished player accidentally stumbled for a moment? Was his response intentional?

Later in the press conference, a reporter asked, "Why should the Lakers draft you?"

Ball repeated, "They need a leader. They need a point guard. I feel like I can play that role."

The second time Ball spoke, his belief that he would be the leader of the Lakers if drafted came across more clearly, and whether or not it was intended to send a message to Russell, the statement spoke for itself. Ball wants to be the face of the Lakers and the leader of the team.

"I think a lot of it is just natural," Ball spoke about his thoughts on leadership. "I think you're either born a leader or you're not."

Asked if he was a born leader, Ball responded without hesitation, "Yes, sir."

When speaking of leaders and point guards, one would be remiss to not mention Johnson, the five-time NBA champion and current Lakers president of basketball operations. Seemingly, Ball mentioned Johnson more than any of the other players, coach or even his outspoken father, Lavar Ball.

"My dad loved [Johnson], loved the way the Lakers played, so I kind of patterned my game after that." Ball said he grew up watching game tape of Johnson and was familiar with the player.

Ball continued the comparison: "He's a big point guard. I'm a big point guard. He likes to push (the ball). I like to push it. He likes to pass. I like to pass."

When Ball spoke about Tuesday's dinner meeting being fun, he was asked what about it made it "fun." Conspicuously, Ball's answer started with Johnson: "Just Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players to ever play. I love the way coach Walton coaches. Rob's a great dude too. Just meeting all of them is a blessing."

Ball said that Johnson also offered advice on how the young player can help improve players on the court and how he can help off the court, too.

"It was a blessing," Ball said about his first meeting with the Lakers' legend. "He's the best point guard to ever play. Me, being a point guard, I looked up to him my whole life. And to finally get a chance to meet him is a blessing."

Ball summed up his thoughts on Johnson and mirrored the Lakers' hope, should they call Ball's name with the no. 2 pick on June 22: "(Johnson)'s the best point guard to ever play, so I can learn a lot of things from him."

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