When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Brook Lopez then selected Lonzo Ball in the NBA Draft, fans had to take notice. Somewhere lost in the shuffle of the Lakers moving on from the Kobe Bryant era was the fact that they may have taken a step backward into the “Showtime” days. In the ’80’s it was Magic Johnson and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar show. Now the Lakers will have a possibly another great 1-2 punch in Ball and Lopez.
This is what Johnson had to envision when he made the deal for Lopez.
Magic sent away D’Angelo Russell. Not because of some video ousting a teammate but because he didn’t see himself in Russell. Magic is old school and in his eyes, the Lakers need a floor general, not a player looking to score 20 points a night. Russell is a talent, but a facilitator he is not. For his career, he’s averaged only 4 assists per game. How is that possible? But that’s the issue with today’s PG’s. It’s about getting the ball in the basket instead of helping someone else get it in.
Magic is hoping Ball is better.
During his collegiate career, Ball had the green light to average 20 points per game, instead, he chose to lead the NCAA in assists with 8 per game. Right there are the similarities that Magic sees. Nevermind the presence of LaVar. The Lakers are looking for someone to lead them back to the glory days of run-n-gun basketball. There are only a handful of players in the NBA right now that can do what Ball is capable of.
On the other side of the coin stands Lopez. When you think of Magic you can’t help but think of Kareem. They go hand in hand. Where would they be without each other?
How scary is this thought?
Kareem, like Lopez, started his career someplace else where he made a name for himself as the best offensive Center in the league. Lopez, despite his rebounding woes, is still the best scoring Center in the NBA. And now that he has added a three-point shot to his resume, he’s playing at a dangerous level. Lopez had his best years with Deron Williams in Brooklyn but even Williams was a shoot-first player. Lopez has not had the luxury of playing with a pass-first guard like he will when he and Ball kick off their first season together.
The Lakers have always had a decent big man in the post when they were winning championships. It started with Kareem then down to Shaquille O’Neal then to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But as their post play has declined so had their winning percentage. Roy Hibbert and Timofey Mozgov, just to name a few who have tried to fill Kareem’s shoes but all have failed. Shaq was more muscle than anything, whereas Lopez may have the silky smooth style in which Kareem dominated.
Ball, like Magic, was not the best shooter but he controlled the pace of the game better than any PG. This is why Russell was sent packing. Magic understands that you can slow a backcourt tandem down but to be able to stop a penetrator and a post player is harder to do. Russell looked for his perimeter shot to prove that he had one while Ball looks to get to the paint to prove he can pass. This is where both players will shine.
Remember what happened the last time the Lakers drafted a tall PG to pair with a scoring Center?
Magic and Kareem are Gods in L.A. They took the Lakers to new heights. However, it’s the same as dance moves, slang, and clothing. Everything comes full circle eventually and this is what Magic and the Lakers are banking on.