EL SEGUNDO – Lonzo Ball’s offseason will not include an appearance at the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas.
Lakers President Magic Johnson said Ball and Kyle Kuzma will skip the July event to focus on their individual progress following strong rookie seasons.
“We want those guys in the gym, working with weights, working on their game, so they won’t be playing in summer league,” Johnson said.
Rookies Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant will be on the summer team, Johnson said.
On Thursday, Ball left his status for Las Vegas more open-ended, saying if the Lakers “want me to play, I’ll play.”
Ball sitting out will buck a trend for the Lakers’ top draft picks. Brandon Ingram and ex-Laker D’Angelo Russell played in summer league following their rookie seasons, although neither played all of the Lakers games.
Instead, the offseason directive from Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka, who spoke to the media Friday after concluding exit interviews with players a day earlier, was more about Ball’s mentality than anything else.
“If you want to be an All-Star and you want to lead this team to the playoffs,” Pelinka said he told Ball, “that can’t be something we tell you how to work in the offseason. That’s got to be something that you choose to do. You should be hunting down the weight coaches, you should be hunting down the basketball development coaches. You should be begging to get in the gym and developing that drive for greatness.”
Top Lakers officials were united in the belief that, despite Ball shooting just 30.5 percent from 3-opint range in his rookie season, they do not want him making dramatic changes to his jump shot.
“There’s always little things you can change,” Coach Luke Walton said. “The balance of your shot, things like that. You always work on those as a shooter. But changing the form? I wouldn’t recommend doing that.”
Ball said Thursday the Lakers bosses told him this would be “the biggest summer of my life.”
That extends beyond the court. He and his girlfriend, Denise Garcia, are expecting a daughter in July, and Ball has various obligations with his father’s Big Baller Brand.
The weight room was a theme of Friday’s interviews. Ball was limited to just 52 games as a rookie, and Johnson said he wanted his point guard and second-year forward Brandon Ingram to get stronger to aid in their durability.
“It’s going to be about being disciplined,” Walton said, “and making the decisions that no matter what’s going on in your life, these are things that I’m doing every single day. Not because I have to, but because I want to. And I think Zo understands that. He’ll be committed to that.”
Ball finished the season averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds
Johnson praised Ball, the player he called the “face” of the franchise after selecting him second overall in June.
“He handled himself well,” Johnson said. “One thing about Lonzo, you don’t have to worry about him. He’s his own man. He has great passion and love for basketball and for the Lakers. He came in, I mean, man, with this big bang and high expectations from everybody. I think he was able to live up to a lot of the expectations.”
Johnson said at the start of training camp he did not need to “monitor” Ball’s father, LaVar. Despite a meeting he and Pelinka had with the elder Ball in November to ask him to tone down his criticisms of Walton, Johnson said the two “have a good relationship with LaVar” and did not anticipate any problems moving forward.
“We only had two conversations with LaVar,” Johnson said. “And they were both good, and we moved on. I don’t have to monitor LaVar. He loves his son and cares about his son and wants his son to be better and that is what we want. We want him to be better, and so I am not going to monitor him.”