Chalk Marcin Gortat and John Wall to the latest victims of the LaVar Ball Effect. There were already going to be a lot of eyes glued to ESPN Wednesday night when the Washington Wizards led by Wall visit LaVar’s son Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers. But what father Ball did was bring a reason for East Coast fans to stay up a couple of hours later to see how this game plays out.
LaVar challenged the Wizards in his very own way. You may not like his antics, but he is a marketing genius. Sure, he says outlandish things to the perception, but he is establishing his brand. No, not the Big Baller Brand, but the Ball Family brand. I’ll admit at times it’s hard to differentiate the two, and sometimes the two go hand and hand. But, the BBB can’t succeed without the Ball Family. And if it fails, the Ball Family brand is ultimately the more important to succeed.
“Washington coming in here Wednesday? They better beware,” Ball proclaimed in his WWE-like persona in an interview with Ball Is Life. “Because Lonzo ain’t losing again! Not in the same week!”
In honest, he was just defending his son. He was upset as many dads are when their son is bested (I know, I coach my son’s youth basketball team). If anything, the words were more so to challenge his son. Inspire Lonzo to be better than what he was in the Lakers’ most recent loss on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo finished the game with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. He had a plus/minus of minus-24.
Of course, in a busy everyday life, especially for an NBA player, no one has time to understand that logical thinking. So, Marcin Gortat, the Wizards’ starting center, heard the challenge laid out for an easy dislikable target like LaVar, and yes, he has brought that on himself. Gortat defended his team, and his leader, Wall, who will be the primary defender of Ball in crucial moments. He chimed on Twitter in response to the Ball if Life’s post of the interview.
man….. pleaseeeeee!!! @JohnWall will torture him for 48min 😂😂😂😂
— Marcin Gortat🇵🇱 (@MGortat) October 23, 2017
And at that very moment, Gortat fell for LaVar’s trap. LaVar is building a brand, and he did what he needed to do to get more than the normal eyes interested in a Wednesday night game in October that will tip at 10:30 p.m. in the East. Sorry Michelle Beadle, ESPN needs to send father Ball a nice thank you gift basket.
Still after all of this, there was no word initially from Wall. He didn’t have to say anything to confirm LaVar’s comments were on his mind. He shot 3-of-13 the same night in a Wizards’ 109-104 win at Denver. Wall isn’t the greatest shooter, but his off night was still unusual. But you must forgive him, his mind may have been preoccupied looking ahead to Wednesday’s showdown.
Following Monday’s win in which Wall still finished with 19 points and 12 assists to help keep Washington undefeated at 3-0 (the Eastern Conference’s lone remaining undefeated team), he chimed in the hoopla saying to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, he was going to show “no mercy” to Lonzo as the Wizards look to remain undefeated.
It’s the competitive nature of an athlete especially those looking to be great. Wall wants to prove he is the best player in the NBA while guiding his team to uncharted territory of being an NBA title contender. With Wall’s “no mercy” and Gortat’s “torture” comments, the competitive nature of the young and overmatched Lakers kicked in as they took offense with Gortat’s comments.
The assumption is Wall — a consensus top-10 player — is going to dominate the young rookie. Patrick Beverley did so, and made a point to do so when he faced off against the son of the brash talker to open the season. However, it was Lonzo’s first regular season NBA game. Beverley is a first-team all-defender, and he also is not the best player on a L.A. Clippers team. He could go all out on defense to shut down Lonzo without hurting his team on offense.
Wall is in one’s opinion the next best defensive point guard in the NBA. However, Wall is also the Wizards’ best offensive player. He is a star. Lonzo has already tasted the pavement so to speak in the NBA. It’s naive to think he won’t be better prepared against a headliner such as Wall.
The Lakers as a team have nothing to lose. They’re destined to another lottery pick in next summer’s draft – no matter what LaVar tries to say otherwise. The Wizards on the other hand, are trying to gain national attention. They want to be perceived as one of the best teams in the league. A loss or a dreadful performance by Wall at the expense of Lonzo will certainly change a narrative from the national perspective.
Win or lose, the Wizards’ goal does not change. They aspire of playing in June. A win or lost does not change any perception of Lonzo Ball — his fans will continue to love him, his or his father’s naysayers will continue to critique. Of course, a lost will not quiet LaVar. A win definitely won’t.
The Wizards don’t want to be that team. I get it. The only team to lose to the Lakers and let Lonzo shine in the process, just had its coach fired immediately afterwards. The Wizards are above that. Still, one has to wonder are their emotions setting them up for failure?
Let’s just hope Gortat, Wall, and the rest of the Wizards are ready to bring it. It’s safe to assume Lonzo and the Lakers will be.