Suns were 2nd option for Lonzo Ball before draft, says former coach Watson
Even if the clock ticks a few minutes past the 1 p.m. Thursday NBA trade deadline without any news, a link between the Phoenix Suns and Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball will remain.
While any mutual interest in Ball heading to Phoenix is riding on a sidecar tied to a potential blockbuster that would send Pelicans forward Anthony Davis to Los Angeles, it’s clear Ball and his family will have Phoenix in mind if the second-year guard’s time with the Lakers comes to a close at any point.
Former Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson knows best.
He is good friends with the Ball family having worked with Lonzo’s father, LaVar, on developing the minor league Junior Basketball Association. Watson, like Lonzo, is also a UCLA product and is embedded in the AAU basketball scene where LaVar began building his brand.
And then there’s Watson’s connection to Phoenix as the Suns’ former coach in parts of three seasons from 2016-17. He knows that the Ball family preferred their son land with Phoenix, which had the No. 4 pick, if he’d been passed over by the Lakers at second in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“I’m not surprised that Phoenix is the second destination if Lonzo is traded,” Watson told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
“That was the same sentiment the family had going into the draft. If the Lakers didn’t take him, they wanted to make sure that I knew that where they wanted to be was in Phoenix. They wanted to stay close to L.A. Obviously, the Lakers took him. They did not want to go to Boston (at No. 3).”
With Doug & Wolf on Wednesday, Watson, who is currently enrolled in classes to earn his degree at UCLA, added more insightful tidbits regarding Suns guard Devin Booker, Lonzo Ball and how the Suns could theoretically manage LaVar.
On how Lonzo Ball would fit in with the Suns’ current roster:
“Lonzo Ball is a unique player. He has the skill, the intuition — players play in patterns. He creates his own pattern, he can play outside of a pattern. One thing he’s learned to do is to play off of the ball and become a significantly better three-point shooter (Editor’s note: Ball is shooting just 33 percent from three-point range). We all know Devin Booker needs the ball in his hands but Devin doesn’t need to make every play the entire game.”
“The pace is going to speed up and Deandre (Ayton) is going to eventually play the pace of Lonzo. Devin — (Ball) can kind of go in between (fast and slow paces) — Devin doesn’t play fast but he plays quick. So it’s going to be a unique mixture, but to me he definitely fits. That’s a void they definitely have.”
On how the Suns would need to handle LaVar Ball and the distraction he causes through the media:
“I think lines of communication needs to be opened up. A head coach … in the NBA is going to have to start acting like a college coach and say, ‘Hey, if you have a problem with playing time or your son’s style of play, you need to contact me first. That doesn’t need to be national media news.'”
On if he could see Booker asking out of Phoenix like Davis has in New Orleans:
“I don’t know Anthony Davis personally. I don’t think he has the type-A dominant personality as a Devin Booker or a Damian Lillard. Dame, whom I’m very close to, reminds me a lot of Devin in the mindset. Neither one of them was given anything and they worked for everything.
“I feel like Devin is all-in into Phoenix. He’s all in, he wants to be there, but he definitely wants to win.
“Devin is very articulate, he’s very mature. He’s going to exhaust every option before he ever gets to the point if he ever asks to leave. So he would go through the strategy of having one-on-one conversations with ownership, one-on-one conversations with management, one-on-one conversations with coaches … he watches so much basketball, knowing Devin, he’ll give you a list of players he’d love to play with.”