Lonzo Ball Talks Disappointing Lakers Tenure, Brother LaMelo, Joining Pelicans

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2019

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 09:  Lonzo Ball #2 of the New Orleans Pelicans handles the ball during a preseason game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on October 09, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball is excited about his new surroundings after enjoying little success during his two years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Ball feels good about the group of talent Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin has assembled in New Orleans:

"Our core could be even better here [than it was in L.A]. [Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart] were already part of the young core with me in L.A., and now we have Zion [Williamson], Nickeil [Alexander-Walker], Jaxson [Hayes], and other guys that want to work and get better. The sky's the limit."

Ball was dealt to New Orleans along with Ingram, Hart and multiple draft picks during the offseason as part of the trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers.

While there was a lot of pressure on Ball to perform in L.A. since he was essentially a hometown player and his father, LaVar Ball, talked him up in a grandiose manner coming out of college at UCLA, Lonzo doesn't believe it contributed to his disappointing tenure with the Lakers:

"Nah, nah, that wasn't too much pressure. That's what I was supposed to do. No. 2 pick, you're supposed to do a job—you're supposed to turn the franchise around. And I don't think I did it to the best of my abilities. I didn't live up to that standard. Now I'm here and I'm blessed to be here."

Now, Ball has a chance for a clean slate on a Pelicans team with an exciting young core highlighted by Ball, Ingram and Williamson, along with quality veterans in J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday.

There was no shortage of fanfare when Ball arrived in L.A. after a standout collegiate season at UCLA, and the expectation was that he would help end a drought that has now seen the Lakers miss the playoffs in each of the past six seasons.

Lonzo saw the writing on the wall with regard to a trade when LeBron James' first season with the Lakers ended without a playoff berth, and he has since welcomed the change of scenery:

"It was only a matter of time before a trade happened. I pretty much knew a trade would happen. Any time you have a player like Anthony Davis available, I knew it was going to be my time. I was looking forward to it and I was excited for a new start. Getting out of L.A. for the first time in my life. I'm happy about it.

"It was just time for a change. I got hurt both years and didn't do what I wanted to do. I was blessed to stay home and play in front of everybody, but it wasn't working over there."

Ball was limited to just 99 games in his two years with the Lakers, but his production wasn't as impressive as anticipated even when he was healthy.

He shot just 38.0 percent from the field overall and averaged 10.0 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. In New Orleans, there won't be as much pressure to put up big numbers immediately, and he will have the opportunity to learn from a veteran guard in Jrue Holiday.

Lonzo has long been the toast of the Ball family, but next season he will likely be joined in the NBA by his little brother, LaMelo Ball. The 18-year-old LaMelo is playing for the Illawarra Hawks in Australia's NBL, and he is starting to generate some buzz as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

While Lonzo believes LaMelo can ultimately be a better player than him, he isn't ready to give up that distinction quite yet: "'Melo has a chance to be a better player than me, for sure. I feel at the same age, he's better than me. In real time, I don't think he’s better than me. But I'm the big brother so I'm always going to have that edge over him."

Lonzo also said he has stressed the importance of being coachable and hardworking to LaMelo ahead of his entry into the NBA draft.

Several sets of brothers exist in the NBA, including Brook and Robin Lopez, Stephen and Seth Curry, Pau and Marc Gasol, and Marcus and Markieff Morris, but depending on where LaMelo lands, the Ball brother rivalry could be one of the best the NBA has ever seen.