The playoff races are well underway in the NBA, and things are very competitive in both conferences. It looks likely that only a handful of games will separate fifth from eighth in certain cases, and the margins between making and missing the playoffs will be small.
Most contenders have key figures who will have a big say in where their teams land. These aren’t always the obvious stars, but a key name who’s returning from injury or picking up the slack at the right time. Here are 10 key players who will have a big say in the playoff races.
10. Buddy Hield, G, Kings
Hield has had a breakout year this season, but he hasn’t always been in the good graces of coach Dave Joerger, much to the frustration of some other players. The Kings are very much in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and they’ll need Hield to play fearlessly — and have the trust of his coach — down the stretch. If he can play to his capabilities — like when he made 53.4 percent of his threes in January — the Kings will have a huge weapon as they chase a playoff spot.
Lonzo Ball seems to be having some fun with the whole NBA trade deadline situation.
Thursday’s trade deadline passed without the Los Angeles Lakers making a massive trade for Anthony Davis. They made a smaller deal with the Clippers that sent Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley packing, but several of their other players they were dangling in Davis talks remained.
What does Ball think about that? He seemed to let everyone know with his musical choice played on Instagram.
Ball shared a video on his Instagram story of him playing the Puff Daddy song “Bad Boy for Life,” which includes the lyrics, “we ain’t going nowhere.”
Nope, the young Lakers aren’t. Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram were mentioned in trade talks for Davis but ended up staying. Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson were also part of their reported offer for Davis and still are with the team. That means the Lakers and LeBron James will have to kiss and make up with nearly half their team.
Meanwhile, Pelicans GM Dell Demps is probably laughing about the whole matter, as he reportedly sabotaged the Lakers in revenge for them tampering with Davis.
LaVar Ball is at it again.
Only a few days removed from ripping the Los Angeles Lakers, head coach Luke Walton and superstar LeBron James amid trade rumors involving his son, guard Lonzo Ball, LaVar is once again taking aim at the franchise and its face.
While appearing on FS1’s Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe, LaVar “guaranteed” that LeBron and the Lakers will not and can not win an NBA championship without Lonzo.
“I told the Lakers a long time ago, if you trade my son, it’ll be the worst thing you ever did. And I guarantee, if they trade my son, they will never get a championship,” LaVar said.
LaVar went on to rip Luke Walton as a bad coach with a bad system, adding that the Lakers’ attempt to create a super team around LeBron will fail. Bayless then challenged that notion, which led to LaVar doubling down.
“LeBron James without Lonzo is not going to win a championship,” LaVar said. “I guarantee that.”
With the NBA trade deadline just hours away, expect to hear even more from LaVar. And if Lonzo does, in fact, get traded, well. . . get your popcorn ready!
LaVar Ball has remained surprisingly subdued since LeBron James found his way to Los Angeles, but as trade rumors surrounding Lonzo Ball continue to swirl, LaVar decided to return to his old ways on Tuesday.
During an unscheduled interview with Doug & Wolf on Phoenix radio station 98.7 FM, LaVar ripped the Lakers, ripped Luke Walton and basically ripped everyone else around the organization as well.
“[Lonzo] is a better fit in Phoenix because they’ve got some young athletes. They’ve been losing. They need a winning attitude. The Lakers gave my boy that losing attitude. If you look at my boys, the one thing they do do is win,” LaVar said. “My boys don’t lose too much. When he got to the Lakers — Luke Walton was the worst coach ever for Lonzo because he had a losing mentality. They’ve been losing for three years. That’s how you develop losing.”
LaVar was then asked if, perhaps, he or Lonzo are afraid of LeBron. He predictably scoffed at that notion.
“Afraid of LeBron? I’m not afraid of Jesus! What are you talking about?” LaVar snapped.
LaVar later suggested he and his trio of boys would be the right answer for the Suns, and that they could change the entire culture in Phoenix.
“I gave the Lakers a first right of refusal. I said get all three of my boys, and you got championships. They think I’m just talking. Lonzo and Gelo and Melo had the best chemistry,” LaVar said.
“It’s time for something new. The Ball boys! We’ll change the whole culture over there.”
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, February 7 at 3:00 p.m. ET, and odds are Lonzo will be on the move. We can only imagine what LaVar will have to say when and if that actually happens, but you know it’ll make waves.
Lonzo Ball may be a part of trade talks for the Los Angeles Lakers, but any suggestions about him changing his social media profiles to reflect that are incorrect.
Ball is being mentioned as a piece in the Lakers’ trade efforts for Anthony Davis. The possibility of a trade is so realistic that LaVar Ball has even weighed in and is trying to steer his son to the Phoenix Suns.
Players react to trade rumors differently, with some getting so offended that they make changes to their social media profiles. There was talk that Lonzo had removed mentions of the Lakers from his Twitter and Instagram profiles, which led to some chatter that he was preparing to be traded. However, those theories were disproved.
It turns out that the reason there is no mention of the Lakers in Lonzo’s Twitter and Instagram profiles is because that’s how it’s been since last year.
You can’t remove something that was never there in the first place.
According to the Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner, Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo and two first-round picks are being offered to the Pelicans for Davis and Solomon Hill.
LaVar Ball is back just in time for the NBA trade deadline.
The Ball family patriarch told ESPN on Monday that if Lonzo Ball is traded in a potential Anthony Davis deal, he wants the point guard to end up in Phoenix, not New Orleans.
As usual, we don’t know if LaVar Ball is speaking only for himself or on behalf of his son, though we have heard talk that Lonzo would prefer to play for the Suns. What is true is that LaVar can speak all he wants, but he only has so much influence over this process. He could raise a fuss if the trade isn’t to his liking, but the Lakers are in control of the process here. Between his contract situation and his stature, he doesn’t have a lot of leverage to make demands of either the Pelicans or the Lakers.
Lonzo Ball has heard his name come up in trade rumors quite a bit this season, and there is reportedly at least one team he is interested in playing for if the Los Angeles Lakers decide to move him.
Ball has been mentioned as a possible piece of the puzzle in the Lakers’ pursuit of Pelicans star Anthony Davis, but Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reports that the former UCLA star would not want to play in New Orleans. Ball would, however, be open to joining the Phoenix Suns.
Unlike Davis, who can try to control his destination by telling interested teams he will not sign with them long-term, Ball doesn’t have much leverage. For starters, he’s under team control for four more seasons. He also isn’t exactly the type of star player who is going to be able to push around the Lakers or potential trade partners.
The Suns are 11-42 and one of the worst teams in the NBA, so they make some sense for Ball in that he is an inexpensive player with a lot of potential. If the former No. 2 overall pick is coveted by other teams, the Lakers would probably try to use him to acquire some sort of asset or assets that would help them land Davis. If LA has a chance to get Davis, it sounds like no player on their roster other than LeBron James is untouchable.
The next few weeks will be filled with rumors linking the Los Angeles Lakers to Anthony Davis, but the question of what they would give up lingers.
Guard Lonzo Ball will likely figure prominently in Laker trade rumors, but according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have been internally adamant that the second-year guard is not available.
Obviously the Lakers were adopting this stance before they knew Davis was going to request a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. That factor could change things quickly, especially given their reported determination to land him.
Ball is averaging 9.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds this season. He’s still only 21, and Magic Johnson may be reluctant to part with his first draft pick.
The Los Angeles Lakers got very bad news about one of their young stars.
The team announced Sunday that point guard Lonzo Ball will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a grade three ankle sprain sustained during Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets.
Though X-rays turned out negative, the MRI revealed a pretty serious injury. Grade three is the most severe ankle sprain, so this is a pretty bad one that should keep him out perhaps until March. The most optimistic scenario likely brings him back into the fold shortly after the All-Star break, but a lot probably has to go right for that to happen.
There is a sliver of good news for the Los Angeles Lakers regarding the injury status of Lonzo Ball.
X-rays on Ball’s left ankle were negative, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli, meaning there is no fracture.
Ball rolled his left ankle after colliding with James Ennis on a drive to the basket in the third quarter of the Lakers’ loss to the Houston Rockets Saturday night. He had to be carried off the court by his teammates.
Ball has dealt with multiple injuries to his left ankle since entering the NBA. He has sprained his left ankle four times since playing for the Lakers.