It took just 23 games for the Lakers to make a LaVar Ball–related decision. ESPN reported Monday that the team will enforce a rule that bars media members from the area where families and friends of players congregate after games, behind the basket near the visiting locker room.
“It’s not a new policy; it’s an existing policy,” a Lakers spokesperson told ESPN. “There has been more media presence in that area than before. That section is strictly for family and guests of players. It’s a privacy concern.”
Just before every home game tips off, LaVar Ball walks through the visiting tunnel to his seat in Section 105. After the game, LaVar, typically in bright Big Baller Brand gear, lingers, attracting fans and signing gear. Any reporter who approaches him can likely get him to spout off a few quotes with ease.
Section 105 has been LaVar’s briefing room, but it won’t any longer because of what Staples Center employees are reportedly calling the “LaVar Ball Rule.” It’s not the express purpose of the rule to prevent more LaVar talk, but it sure feels like it.
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.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) December 4, 2017
On the surface, this move appeases those who have been calling for the media to stop covering LaVar (like Steve Kerr). The Ball family has become overexposed in the past 18 months, but the last thing this will do is prevent LaVar from making public statements. He has a reality show, after all.
The Lakers’ attempt to limit reporters’ access to the friends-and-family area, and thus LaVar, is understandable. Only a quarter of the way through the season, LaVar has already criticized coach Luke Walton and his staff, saying, “They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son.” LaVar has also called out Lonzo’s teammates for not running “down the middle of the floor.” Having the parent of a player undermine the organization in the press is not the type of publicity the Lakers want, especially when an 8–15 record and five straight losses are big-enough magnets for criticism.
At the center of it all is Lonzo, who isn’t the only reason the team has struggled, but must withstand the intense scrutiny of being a top-three pick from the Ball family. Lonzo is averaging nearly seven assists and seven rebounds per game, but is shooting only 31.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep. The growing pains are compounded by a spotlight that prevents him from being a normal rookie. It’s no wonder he’s looked dispirited on the court.
Luke Walton said Lonzo “didn’t seem to have that same bounce, that same push that he’s been giving us.”— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 4, 2017
“Any time you turn on any sports show, all they talk about is his shot,” Walton said last month. “Is it extra pressure? One hundred percent. He’s a rook … who gets dissected by everybody.”
The questions surrounding Lonzo before the draft mostly had to do with LaVar. How would Lonzo’s future team and city deal with the Ball family’s hoopla? The Lakers took it in stride, saying that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka talked with LaVar himself before the draft and had quashed the potential for his interference. But now, Lonzo’s shot isn’t falling, the Lakers aren’t winning, and whether it’s behind the basket, in the tunnel, or outside Staples Center, LaVar won’t stop talking.