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Waldner: Let’s ease up on the Lonzo Ball expectations

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Are you drinking the Lonzo Ball Kool-Aid?If you are, you expect the precocious rookie guard to drive the Lakers to the playoffs next season, as LaVar Ball, his carnival barker father, predicts.You also believe it will not be long before the 19-year-old Ball leads the Lakers to the NBA championship, as general manager Rob Pelinka intimates.Anyone who has watched Lonzo Ball since his days at Chino Hills High knows he is a special talent. The urge is strong, it’s natural, to compare him with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is famed for hitting the open man with a pass before the fellow realized he was open. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThat’s what Ball did at Chino Hills and in his one season at UCLA.However, long before Johnson became the catalyst for five NBA championships during a nine-year span with the Lakers, the team had high expectations when they reeled in Walt Hazzard, another pass-first Bruin guard. The Hazzard story is a cautionary tale for those who expect only milk and honey for the Lakers with Lonzo Ball.Hazzard was the national Player of the Year/Outstanding Player in the Final Four when John Wooden won the first of his remarkable 10 NCAA championships at UCLA. His nice 10-year NBA career did not come close to the expectations he brought into the league.To bridge the gap between Hazzard and Ball, to provide perspective, we turn to Keith Erickson.center_img The former El Segundo High and El Camino College basketball/baseball star was the defensive stopper at the 5 slot in the stifling Bruin zone press defense on Wooden’s first two NCAA championship teams, a member of the 1972 Lakers championship team during a 12-year NBA career and a Lakers radio-TV color commentator with Chick Hearn as well as with the Phoenix Suns.“I love what I see,” he said when asked about Lonzo Ball. “He’s brilliant. He’s so much fun to watch. I agree with Magic. He has the talent to turn the team around.”What is not fun to watch or hear is LaVar Ball. For all the attention his motormouth bragging has generated, it is secondary to his I-know-more-about-coaching-than-anyone-else attitude.Younger sons LiAngelo and LaMelo played at Chino Hills last season. Dad commandeered the team, overriding the coach by barking instructions from start to finish during a CIF playoff loss to Bishop Montgomery.What happens when the 48-year-old LaVar, a onetime West L.A. College and Cal State L.A. player, decides he knows more about coaching than 37-year-old Lakers coach Luke Walton?“He will ruin his son if he does that,” Erickson said. “No coach will have him (Lonzo) if that happens.”Lonzo Ball’s flaws go beyond his father and his infamous funky slow-to-launch jump shot. He needs major work on defense, which is an ongoing theme for the Lakers, who were in the discussion for worst defense in the NBA last season.“That’s the question,” Erickson acknowledged, pointing to the oft-ignored fact that for all of the offensive firepower Golden State has, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala provide the Warriors with “three guys who get their noses dirty on defense … they make up for what (Steph Curry) doesn’t do on the defensive end.”He could have been talking about the Lakers when Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar covered for Johnson on defense.“Exactly,” he said. “It all depends on the pieces.”Hazzard was Lonzo Ball long before Lonzo Ball came around.“He was,” Erickson said. “Walt was great at making a team better. He was the finest, the best. What I said about Ball holds for Walt. He always gave the ball up first. And he was fearless.”Hazzard’s NBA downfall?“He did not have the team around him,” Erickson said.People are talking about the pressure on Lonzo Ball to turn around a team with 27, 21, 17 and 26 wins in the past four seasons. The real pressure is on Johnson and Pelinka to provide the pieces, to surround Lonzo Ball with quality players who can utilize his talent. Clearing out the mini-notebookCalendar: The annual Rod Dedeaux Foundation Awards Dinner honoring the top college baseball player with the Golden Spikes Award, along with former Cal State Fullerton and current Oregon coach George Horton (USA Baseball Coach of the Year) and former Cal State Fullerton, etc. coach Augie Garrido (lifetime achievement award), will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles. Jim Abbott (Angels), Roy Smalley (Westchester High) and Mark Prior (USC) also will be saluted. Proceeds from the dinner-auction go to supporting baseball in the inner city with college scholarships, etc. …RIP: LMU basketball coach Mike Dunlap said it about Ryse Williams, his recruit from Redondo High, a month before the shocking news that Williams died of cancer: “I know he can shoot. If his feet are planted, the ball is going down. He makes good decisions. He plays hard.” …Bottom line: President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was clearly upset at a suggestion the Dodgers’ baby-young-pitchers’ arms philosophy versus throwing more to build up strength led to the breakdown of 20-year-old Julio Urias’ [email protected]last_img read more

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Rooney must improve or his Man United career is FINISHED, warns Champions League winner

first_imgDietmar Hamann believes Wayne Rooney could soon be facing the end of his Manchester United career.Rooney has found the net just once in the Premier League this season and has been the subject of stinging criticism for his performances, with many United fans claiming he is ‘finished’ at the top level.The 29-year-old’s immediate future at Old Trafford does not appear to be under threat, with manager Louis van Gaal continually offering his backing, and with four years still to run on his contract.But Hamann claims Van Gaal will lose faith in his captain if he does not start firing again quickly.The Champions League-winning former German international, speaking on the Colin Murray show, said: “His form has to improve.“There will be a time, if his form doesn’t improve, where the club won’t be happy and he won’t be happy and you have to come to a decision because you can’t keep a Rooney at your club on vast amounts of money if he is a bit-part player.“Van Gaal has backed him, he has done everything he could, but there will come a time when the manager will say, ‘listen mate, you can’t be in the starting XI’.“They have got a player in [Juan] Mata who I think is best suited to that position Rooney plays [behind the striker]. So, they have a perfect replacement in their squad [for Rooney] and, if he doesn’t improve, the manager will say somebody else has to play in his position.“From now until the end of the season, it will be a critical eight months. If his form doesn’t improve there may be a time sooner or later when Rooney himself wants a fresh challenge in a league that isn’t as demanding as the Premier League.”David Beckham has suggested Rooney could prolong his United career by dropping back into midfield.But his former Liverpool rival Hamann insists that is not an option for England’s record goalscorer.He said: “They have got a set-up there now with the likes of Mata, [Memphis] Depay and [Anthony] Martial up top which should bring out the best in him, but so far he hasn’t done it.“He has got a quick player ahead of him now which should suit him because it should give him more space to bring other players into goalscoing positions and score himself but, so far, he hasn’t done it.“I can’t see him dropping further back. Rooney can’t go any further back. This is as far back as he can go playing off one front man.“He has to play better and if he doesn’t soon, he will have a problem getting in the Man United team. He is best suited playing off a front man. If he can’t play there, he can’t play.”last_img read more

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