There's always drama in Tinsel Town, so it should come as no surprise that much of the latest Los Angeles Lakers news comes from off the court.
The team is sputtering following a short Thanksgiving rest, dropping four straight contest in the days following Turkey Day. In that time, LaVar Ball has forced a controversial Lakers' rule change, while the words of those associated with the organization have caused a mild frenzy.
Let us take a look at the latest buzz surrounding the Lakers as their actual on-court play continues to leave little to talk about of late.
High Praise for Rookie
Lonzo Ball entered this season as one of the most hyped rookies in several years, but another newcomer has stolen the show a bit for the Lakers.
After being taken with the 27th pick in this past year's NBA draft, Kyle Kuzma has been a revelation as a stretch forward. He leads the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game and is tied for third in rebounding at 6.5 boards per night. He also filled in great during Larry Nance Jr.'s absence, averaging 18.1 points per game in 11 starts.
Kuzma may be overshadowed by the Ball circus, but he has certainly caught the eye of one Lakers legend.
During a preview of an interview that will entirely air on SportsNet Spectrum on Thursday, Kobe Bryant talked of going out to dinner with Kuzma and how impressed he is by the rookie both mentally and physically:
"A lot of GMs are kicking themselves over that [pick]. He's extremely articulate and very inquisitive. I think that's always the best trait to have is curiosity. Because you want to know why things work. You want to know why things happen and how things happen.
"When you have that kind of curiosity, you're constantly seeking for ways to improve mentally, physically. That's the thing that jumped out at me the most."
Bryant later added that if Kuzma keeps improving, that the next time the two go out, "he'll treat me."
Strong words from the Black Mamba, but Kuzma's play has backed up that sentiment. He was recently named Western Conference Rookie of the Month, as he capped off a historic start to his career, via NBC Los Angeles' Shahan Ahmed:
Shahan Ahmed @shahanLA
Per Lakers MR: Kyle Kuzma is the first rookie in NBA history to record at least 330 points, 120 rebounds and 30 made three-pointers in the first 20 games of his career. Wow.2017-12-1 21:59:11
Impressive stuff for a kid who suddenly has become an integral part of the team's young core along with Ball and Brandon Ingram. Especially in head coach Luke Walton's system that emphasizes spacing and the ability to hit perimeter shots at every position, Kuzma is a valuable piece for the team moving forward. Having the endorsement of Bryant does not hurt either.
Lakers Trying to Quiet LaVar
LaVar Ball's act is no secret, as he looks for any platform possible to be heard and, some would say boisterously, promote himself and his children. Well, the Lakers seemingly want to shrink that platform.
Per ESPN.com's Chris Haynes, the Lakers will now enforce a policy that prohibits media members from congregating in the area of Staples Center where friends and families of players gather after home games. In what is apparently an existing policy, per Haynes, the arena will now more strictly follow it and kick out any media member who violates the rule.
This is largely being dubbed the "LaVar Ball rule" since he is a fiery interview waiting to happen for media members. However, he has also caused some issues for the Lakers of late, such as telling Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus last month that the team's coaches were "soft" and that they "don't know how to coach" Ball.
However, the eldest Ball does not seem to care too much about the rule, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
LaVar Ball to ESPN: "I'm not worried about the LaVar Ball rule." https://t.co/TZtdAcP8pU2017-12-4 20:44:00
Whether or not critical types of comments are the motivating factor for the team's new policy, it is certainly sparking plenty of talk on social media. Reggie Miller slightly defended Ball, while Clutch Points' Ryan Ward expects this to be the start of more turmoil with the self-proclaimed "big baller:"
Reggie Miller @ReggieMillerTNT
https://t.co/YzLhu3j57a As much as I disagree with EVERYthing that comes out of Papa Ball's mouth, don't agree with people calling him the "worst Dad", he sticks up and protects his sons, more Dads should do that, but in a different way..2017-12-4 17:22:24
Ryan Ward @RyanWardLA
It took only 23 games into Lonzo Ball’s NBA career for the #Lakers to begin enforcing a “LaVar Ball Rule.” Wonder how this will pan out2017-12-4 17:39:52
Still, as ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne points out, Ball can still regularly make himself available to the media. The new policy simply prohibits media members from talking to Ball when he is in one specific area, but he is free to talk at any other time he pleases:
Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne
To those asking, even though @ChrisBHaynes story was clear, there's no official policy from the Lakers or Staples Center about letting LaVar Ball talk. He's free to say whatever he wants, whenever. They've just been enforcing an arena rule that makes it harder to talk to him.2017-12-4 18:03:00
It is impossible to believe at this point that Ball will ever stop talking, but it is not like his kids have been setting the world on fire.
Lonzo Ball has been a pretty good facilitator with seven assists per game, but he is just a Rajon Rondo-type player at this point thanks to a 31.3 shooting percentage. Meanwhile, LiAngelo Ball withdrew from UCLA following a suspension for shoplifting in China.
LaVar Ball's mouth has put a significant amount of pressure on his kids, and sooner or later they will have to back up their father's actions.
Magic Under Fire
Mike D'Antoni's time as Lakers head coach was a disappointment to say the least, and Magic Johnson was certainly happy to have him gone.
After D'Antoni resigned in 2014 after posting a 67-87 record in just under two full seasons, Johnson took to Twitter to express his relief.
"Happy days are here again!" he wrote. "Mike D'Antoni resigns as Lakers coach. I couldn't be happier!"
Now a member of the front office for a rebuilding Lakers team, Johnson was the recipient of some revenge Sunday. The Houston Rockets, now led by D'Antoni, socked Los Angeles 118-95 at the Staples Center behind James Harden's 36 points and nine dimes.
D'Antoni's wife, Laurel, did not lack much subtly when giving her thoughts after the blowout, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Jonathan Feigen @Jonathan_Feigen
Laurel D'Antoni, Mike's Mrs., at the game tonight was asked how it feels to be back in LA. Said, "Is it classless to say 'Happy days are here again?2017-12-4 05:53:22
D'Antoni has been flying high since his return to the NBA following his rocky tenure in Los Angeles. He is 73-31 in 104 games with the Rockets, producing one of the best squads in the league. At 18-4, the Rockets look to be a major contender along with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, as he is looking for his first NBA Finals appearance ever as a head coach.
While Johnson may have set himself up for such a blunt comeback, he has bigger problems to deal with. The Lakers are 8-15 with a foundation that needs to start improving after four straight offseasons of drafting in the top 10. It is likely Johnson is spending much more time worrying about how to attack a potentially monster 2018 free-agent class than a petty feud over an inconsequential tweet.
Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.