SALT LAKE CITY — While trying to bring notoriety to his sons — not to mention his shoe company — LaVar Ball has made quite the name for himself this year.
Ball, whose son Lonzo was the second pick in the 2017 NBA draft, once told USA Today: “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” (He only averaged 2.2 points a game when he played for Washington State, by the way.)
Ball drew more criticism when he told a Fox Sports female show co-host (Kristine Leahy of The Herd with Colin Cowherd): “Stay in your lane.”
While being interviewed during one of his son’s UCLA games last season, the elder Ball even made this claim: “I’ll tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me.”
Ball also put a $495 price tag on his Big Baller Brand’s first shoes.
That didn’t go unnoticed or without mocking, of course.
Not surprisingly, his son Lonzo has received an enormous amount of media attention in his first NBA season — in part because the talented 20-year-old has intriguing potential but also because of his dad’s antics.
Rapper Snoop Dogg believes his dad also put a target on the rookie’s back, recently saying, “His father put him in a lion's den with some pork chop drawers on."
Jazz center Rudy Gobert smiled when asked about LaVar Ball’s hype machine.
“I like LaVar. I think he’s funny,” Gobert said, smiling, after Saturday’s shootaround. “He got people’s attention. I think that’s what he wanted. Everybody fell in his trap.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder isn’t concerned with anything away from the court when it comes to the Balls. He politely deferred that line of questioning to the Lakers.
“As far as the attention, publicity and analysis, we’re not analyzing Lonzo like that,” Snyder said. “We just know he’s a good player.”
Gobert is among the crowd that admires that Ball speaks up for his sons (the Lakers’ Lonzo, UCLA’s LiaAngelo and LaMelo, a high schooler).
“I think he looks like a pretty good dad to me,” Gobert said. “I think his kids are doing pretty good.”
HOME, SWEET HOME: Saturday’s game began a home-friendly stretch for the Jazz. Counting the game against the Lakers, Utah plays eight of nine games at Vivint Arena.
“It’s a big stretch,” Gobert said. “We know how deep the West is and we know every game matters. We don’t want to be in February or in March looking back and saying we should have won these games.”
This home stretch includes three games this week — Monday vs. Dallas, Wednesday vs. Portland and Friday vs. Toronto — before a road contest at Houston on Sunday. The Jazz then have four straight at home against the Sixers, Heat, Nets and T-Wolves.
“It’s important whether it’s eight of nine or eight of 18. It’s important for us to win at home,” Snyder said. “I don’t know that there’s a general emphasis that goes on that. Our guys know that it’s important to hold home court.”
BACK HOME: Saturday was the college homecoming for Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma. The 22-year-old played the past three seasons at the University of Utah. Picked 27th overall, the power forward has been impressive in the NBA so far, averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 rebounds.
"He’s a heckuva player," Snyder said.
Snyder credited Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff for their work with Kuzma.
"I think the thing that stands out when you see a skilled player is there’s toughness too — toughness mentally, his willingness to take big shots and just confidence," Snyder said. "That’s a credit to the coaches he’s had, too, that pushed him and allowed him to play and make plays."