Three years into his NBA career, New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball views this as a pivotal offseason, which began with an important business decision: Ball has signed with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, the 22-year-old told ESPN.
“I wanted to lead my career,” Ball told ESPN. “Picking my own representation — just solely as my decision — was step one in that process. For me, it was an easy call, and it was the right time to make that call.”
Ball joins Klutch Sports after brief stints with Creative Arts Agency and Roc Nation.
Weeks removed from a disappointing team showing in the NBA seeding games in Orlando, Florida, Ball said he was beginning his offseason training regimen Monday, which includes two-a-day sessions on the basketball court and workouts in the weight room.
Ball said his goal for next season is to make the playoffs and put himself in contention to follow in teammate Brandon Ingram’s footsteps.
“Once we get in the playoffs, we take it one game at a time,” Ball said. “For myself, I think Most Improved Player is definitely something I can get next year.”
The No. 2 pick out of UCLA in 2017 blazed an unconventional path into the NBA, signing family friend Harrison Gaines as his agent and turning down endorsement opportunities with legacy sneaker companies to wear the family’s Big Baller Brand.
Coming into the league, Ball’s father, LaVar, who worked as a trainer at one point, was omnipresent. LaVar and his wife, Tina, raised three sons — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo — who all became basketball standouts in Chino Hills, California.
During Lonzo Ball’s draft process, LaVar became a pop culture figure in his own right. LaVar publicly steered his son toward the Los Angeles Lakers, was spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” and regularly made sports talk headlines. Ball, his father and family associate Alan Foster had a falling out in May 2019 after a dispute over missing funds.
“We had a couple rumblings here and there, but everything got squared away,” Lonzo Ball said. “When your son gets older, they’re going to butt heads with their dad, and that’s what I did for about a year and a half. But everything is cool now.”
Said LaVar Ball, reached over the phone by ESPN: “He’s always been his own man. As a father, all I can do is guide him. I’m not going to take a lesser role. I am going to be his father, and that’s it.”
Lonzo Ball said the birth of his daughter, Zoey, and moving to New Orleans to get some space were helpful in mending his relationship with his father. Ball added that, despite no longer working together, he and LaVar talk almost every day.
“My dad put me in a position where I am comfortable making my own decisions now,” Ball said. “I think coming into the league, he was very controlling of everything that was going on. But that was an 18-, 19-year-old kid. But now I am 22 years old with my own family. Seeing how he watched over me and stuff — it was time for him to finally let go of everything and watch me be my own man.”
However LaVar Ball’s approach may have been perceived, the basketball results cannot be argued: LaMelo Ball is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2020 draft, just like his oldest brother was.
“He’s in the same spot I was four years ago,” Ball said of LaMelo. “The only thing now is he is much more knowledgeable than I was. All the failures and negative stuff that I’ve been through, he’s already seen it and already knows about it. He knows the answers to the test before he even went into the class.”
Ball was traded to New Orleans in 2019 as a part of a deal that sent Anthony Davis, who is also represented by Paul, to the Lakers. Ball was dealt alongside Josh Hart, Ingram and draft picks just days before the Pelicans selected Duke forward Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick.
“Me being in New Orleans, I have no family out there,” Ball said. “It kind of put me on my own for the first time in my life.”