Note to Lavar Ball: Now We’re All Rooting Against Your Kids

LaVar Ball Is A Great Showman And An Unabashed Dickhead


originally posted on deadspin.com

LaVar Ball is, to put it lightly, a lot to deal with. He’s an insane shit-talker, a genius marketer, and a shrewd businessman who has done a truly admirable job of promoting his children while sidestepping the NCAA’s bullshit amateurism rules. He’s also, plainly, a dickhead.

Ball, as you well know, has made various braggadocious claims about his eldest son Lonzo over the past six months. For the most part, they’ve been harmless, obvious attempts to drum up publicity and notoriety for the Ball family and subsequently the Ball merchandise wing, Big Ballers Brand. And the act works! Most any profile or piece on the man will link out to six other stories about wild shit he’s said; he’s buddy-buddy with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN; he trends on social media at least a couple times a month. So long as you don’t take Ball’s bloviating too seriously, the act is bearable.

But then there’s the way Ball actually treats people in real life. For insights here, we can turn to two articles—one from USA Today, the other from The Undefeated—that detail Ball’s interactions with his sons’ high school coach.

All three Ball children went to or currently attend Chino Hills High School. The team’s basketball program was of little note before the Balls arrived; once Lonzo came along, so did the state titles and 30-win seasons, thus improving the likelihood that LaVar would be granted a say in on-court matters. Unlike Lonzo’s UCLA squad, these teams played tight man defense, pressing constantly, and they thrived on NBA-range treys and transition offense—all products of LaVar’s preferred system. Chino Hills head coach Stephan Gilling was even trained by LaVar as a teenager. With Gilling now 30 years old and in his first season as head coach at Chino Hills, Ball believed his sideline coaching style—literally him yelling which schemes to run at the Chino Hills players from the sidelines—would still fly.

The USA Today story hops in here to grant the first example of how LaVar handles being told he’s not in control of his kids’ team. At this December’s annual Tarkanian Classic, Chino Hills was down 12 at the half, with failed attempts to trap Roosevelt High School’s guard against the half-court line and sideline leading to easy layups and jumpers in the paint. Noticing that the method (the constant ball-pressure method LaVar had his sons run on his AAU teams) wasn’t working, Gilling told Chino Hills—which fielded LiAngelo and LaMelo at the time—to just play man-up.

From the sideline, LaVar can be heard on video screaming, “Double team!” throughout the second half; Gilling can be heard yelling, “Stop trapping!” Chino Hills eventually won by eight after LaMelo started to heat up in the final 10 minutes, and, for the most part (LiAngelo trapped multiple times after looking at the stands), they listened to their coach and played man down the stretch.

According to USA Today, after the game, LaVar, miffed that Gilling would do something as basic as run a different defense in an attempt to win, left the stands, went in the Chino Hills locker room against Gilling’s request, and refused to leave.

“He comes to me and says, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m trying to win the game.’

“He turns around and walks to our locker room,” Gilling said. “I said,
‘LaVar, don’t go into the locker room.’ He continues walking. I said, ‘LaVar, why are you trying to embarrass me?’ And he just kept walking and goes into the locker room. He’s in there sitting down with the team. And I’m like, ‘LaVar, get out!’”

Gilling says Ball refused to leave the locker room, so Gilling told his team to follow him back to the hotel while Ball’s sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, stayed behind.

When the Chino Hills team made it back to their hotel, Ball still hadn’t cooled down. In fact, he was just getting started.

“An assistant coach comes up to me and tells me that he sees LaVar rallying the team up,” Gilling said. “I guess he got them out of their rooms on the 18th floor and tells the team that it was his system that won. That we’re doing what he says. ‘I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!’

The Undefeated picks up the story (in a very pro-LaVar light, it should be noted) two months later, after Chino Hills lost an overtime game 83-80:

“He committed the cardinal sin of cussing out Melo after the game,” LaVar said of Gilling. “He blamed the loss on him. That was it. So I told my boys to do an acting job. Nod your head when he talks, but when you’re on the court, do what I tell you.

“He told my boys not to let your father in your head. What?”

[…]

“He had to go ahead and be a hardhead and try to do things his way,” said LaVar. “This is his last year. One-and-done. He’s gone. I will definitely have a hand in picking the next coach. He’s not welcome here anymore.

Chino Hills athletic director Jeff Schuld told USA Today last week that Gilling has his full support. Ball told the publication (which he no longer speaks to) that the reason his team had “problems” this season, was because Gilling—a 30-year-old man paid to coach a team—“got his own mind.” Chino Hills finished 30-3 this season.

And then there’s Ball’s most recent television appearance, on this morning’s episode of Second Take on FS1. While Lonzo sits beside mute beside him, LaVar once again talks about the beef with Gilling, and even implies that the coach is suffering from bipolar disorder:

Strip away all the theatrics associated with the Ball family and set aside whatever critiques of a broken and corrupt system LaVar’s act is making, and what you are left with is simply a man being a cruel bully. Going on national television and airing out a high school coach for daring to implement a different scheme before accusing that coach of being mentally ill, all while his son sits next to him in what appears to be silent agony, is not harmless fun. It does nothing to advance the careers or earning potential of his children, either. It’s just something an asshole would do.

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Around the NFL Offseason (there is no offseason)

Jordan Cameron Retires After Four Concussions In Four Years: “I Can’t Risk My Mental Health In The Future”

Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron announced his retirement yesterday at the age of 28. After suffering four concussions in four years, he said that the possibility of long-term health risks was too much. As he told ESPN yesterday:

“I started thinking about concussions too much. You can’t play football like that…. If I didn’t get concussions, I’d probably keep playing. It’s one of those things. I can’t risk my mental health in the future. I don’t have any symptoms now. I’m perfectly fine. But they can’t tell me with 100 percent certainty that if I keep playing and I get more concussions, that I’m going to be okay. I’m not risking that at all. There’s nothing more important than your health. It’s just not worth it to me.”

The Dolphins had expressed concern about his long-term potential in the NFL back in October, a few weeks after his last concussion. He signed with Miami two years ago—then just a season removed from an 80-catch, 917-yard Pro Bowl season with the Browns. But he never reached those heights again and his concussions meant that he only played in three games last year.

 Though he has been cleared by a neurologist to return to play, he’s decided it isn’t worth it. When asked by ESPN if he felt the NFL had properly educated him on the danger of concussions before he was drafted in 2011, he said he personally believed that they’d done what they could at the time: “I want to say I hope they didn’t know the serious implications of these things. I feel like it was just starting, just on the brink of this coming to light and all the seriousness of these things. Now I feel like seven years later people know how serious this can be. Unfortunately it takes people dying to figure that out. That’s the saddest thing in the world to me.”

God Help Them, The Cleveland Browns Are Trying To Outsmart The NFL

Reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ surprising trade with the Houston Texans for Brock Osweiler Thursday ran the gamut from fulsome praise to “Bill Polian Yells At Cloud.” Cleveland indeed waded into new territory (for the NFL) by using its extraordinary surplus of salary cap space to essentially trade for a higher draft pick, with Osweiler serving as simply a means to an end. It’s the latest chip in the Browns’ protracted effort to amass draft capital, and while it’s certainly an innovative approach, it’s still just an early step.

First, a look at the terms:

  • Cleveland receives: Osweiler, 2017 sixth-round pick, 2018 second-round pick
  • Houston receives: 2017 fourth-round pick, $10 million in cap savings

Osweiler sucks and is due $16 million in guaranteed salary, for which the Browns are now on the hook. The trade gave the Texans an easy escape from the laughably bad contract they gave Osweiler last year while also providing them with the flexibility to pursue another experienced starter, most likely Tony Romo. It was quickly reported that Cleveland intended to release or trade Osweiler—moves that would require the Browns to eat all or a significant portion of his 2017 salary—but even that’s in keeping with the grander plan.

When chief operating officer Paul DePodesta and general manager Sashi Brown were hired in January 2016, they made no secret of their intention to take a quantitative approach to Cleveland’s rebuild. DePodesta and Brown began their project last year by letting several in-house free agents (offensive linemen Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, wideout Travis Benjamin, free safety Tashaun Gipson) walk before twice trading down in the first round of the draft. The Browns were rewarded with four compensatory picks (a third-rounder, two fourths, and a fifth) to add to their boatload of draft choices.

 All told, Cleveland now has 11 picks each in this year’s and next year’s drafts. That haul includes five of the first 65 overall selections this year and four picks in the first two rounds next year. The Browns also maneuvered to set themselves up with a whopping $102 million in salary cap space this year, right when the timing was perfect. The league’s cash-spending rules require teams to spend 89 percent of the salary cap, but only in cumulative, four-year increments. And this is the first year of the latest increment, which runs from 2017 to 2020.

What the Browns did, insofar as Osweiler concerns them, is use some of that surplus cap room toward a sunk cost (Osweiler’s $16 million in guarantees) that allowed them to obtain Houston’s 2018 second-round pick in exchange for flipping late-round picks this year. It’s an NBA-style move that’s drawing comparisons to what Sam Hinkie did with The Process in Philadelphia. ESPN’S Bill Barnwell went deep to try to gauge the relative value of the assets the Browns swapped, in addition to the gray areas of whether a trade like this is even permitted by the NFL, which prohibits dealing players straight up for cash. But the larger question is this: What will Cleveland ultimately do with all these draft assets? They’re worthless unless some of them are used to obtain good football players.

 Stockpiling draft choices is not a novel strategy, even for the stodgy-ass NFL. As Barnwell noted, the Jimmy Johnson-era Cowboys of the late 1980s and early ‘90s did it by trading running back Herschel Walker. The Packers and Patriots have been doing it for years. And from 1996-2014, the Ravens hoarded 41 compensatory picks, more than any team in the league. As Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta told The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas:

“We look at the draft as, in some respects, a luck-driven process. The more picks you have, the more chances you have to get a good player. When we look at teams that draft well, it’s not necessarily that they’re drafting better than anybody else. It seems to be that they have more picks. There’s definitely a correlation between the amount of picks and drafting good players.”

All of the above are success stories, but it doesn’t always work out that way. In 2014, then-Jets GM John Idzik wiped the team’s cap slate clean and entered the draft with 12 picks—a deliberate attempt to mimic the Ravens’ strategy. Idzik was canned at the end of that season in part because he and head coach Rex Ryan had been so horribly mismatched, but also because nearly every one of those 12 picks (Jace Amaro in the second round, Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans in the fourth, to name a few) turned out to be a dud. The Browns have (in theory) set themselves up nicely with a fresh approach into an old system. Actually getting players is when the hard part begins.


Here Is A Thing That Happened In Tim Tebow’s Spring Training Debut

(just seeing if you’re paying attention)

At the start of the bottom of the third inning, New York Mets designated hitter Tim Tebow left the dugout to get some warm-up swings in before stepping into the box. But, strangely, he walked all the way around behind the plate—from the Mets dugout on the third-base side to the on-deck circle in front of the visitors’ dugout, on the first-base side.

Boston’s Rick Porcello, warming up on the mound, said he assumed it was a bat boy. After all, why would a Mets player be over there?

After a few swings, home plate umpire Ryan Additon noticed Tebow in the wrong on-deck circle, and told Tebow to get back to his side of the field. Tebow sheepishly complied.

Afterward Tebow explained his mistake, saying he had always thought that lefty batters warm up on that side of the field no matter which team they play for.

“I thought you walk around because you’re a left-hander. I found out you don’t do that.”

“It looked like he hadn’t played baseball in a while,” Mets hitting coach Kevin Long said.

“He’s so far behind on the nuances of the game,” Mets OF Jay Bruce said.

“Definitely there’s a lot of things I’m trying to play catch-up on,” Tebow said.

Tebow went 0-for-3, with two strikeouts and a grounder into a double play. He reached base when he was hit by a pitch; he was promptly doubled off on a soft liner when he strayed too far from first.

 Here are some highlights: