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Lakers' Lonzo Ball draws attention with stats, shoe choices

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 6:38 p.m.
The Lakers' Lonzo Ball throws a no-look pass against the  Mavericks during a semifinal game of the Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday, July 16, 2017 in Las Vegas.
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The Lakers' Lonzo Ball throws a no-look pass against the Mavericks during a semifinal game of the Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday, July 16, 2017 in Las Vegas.

Lonzo Ball seems to be just what the Lakers needed.

Yes, it's only summer league, but Los Angeles is mired in a playoff drought and in much need of some excitement. Enter the No. 2 pick in the draft.

Ball has created a buzz around the Los Angeles franchise — on and off the court.

He has averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in six summer league games in Las Vegas. The California native with Showtime-like flair has two triple-doubles and four double-digit assist games while leading the team to Monday night's championship game. He will miss the final contest with a mild calf strain.

His absence Monday is almost a throwaway line in the final chapter of Ball's summer league story.

The 19-year-old made more headlines wearing different brands of sneakers each game.

“All press is good press, technically,” Finish Line content manager and creative strategist Brandon Edler said. “Just the fact that we continue to talk about their every single move is amazing for their brand. ... Maybe his dad is just on a completely different level, and he's sitting there thinking, maybe this isn't a great way to sell the shoe, but we've got everybody talking about us and every time somebody's talking about us, that's great for Big Baller Brand.”

After wearing his own ZO2 shoes in his first two games , which sell for $495, Ball wore the Nike Kobe AD and a James Harden signature Adidas in the following games. It was Under Armour's turn Saturday when Ball played in a pair from Stephen Curry's signature line. Jordan Brand got in the mix Sunday when Ball wore the Jordan 31 low.

Ball and his boisterous father, LaVar, just might be marketing geniuses with how they've kept his sneaker choice as headline news despite turning down lucrative offers from the major brands.

The sneaker rotation is clearly a deliberate plan, and LaVar continues to tell people he's asking for a $3 billion deal with one of the major companies.

Many have criticized the hype machine and multiple summer league players have said they wouldn't wear the ZO2. But those same players were supportive, even envious, of the concept of having their own independent fashion and sneaker line.

The Ball method is certainly unconventional. Rarely does someone promote their own brand by featuring products from other companies. But Lonzo said that's part of the Big Baller Brand — having the independence to do what one wants.

“I don't think it makes a much sense from a marketing perspective to speculate on the reasons,” emailed Dana Alton, department of marketing chair at the University of Hawaii's Shidler College of Business. “From a brand equity building point of view, one would not expect the owner of a given brand to promote competing brands. Thus, I don't see a clear marketing explanation.”

The circus atmosphere off the court somewhat overshadows what Ball has done on the court.

Ball has impressed with is playmaking skills.

It all makes the 6-foot-6 Ball seem like an ideal for La La Land.

He grew up in the suburb of Chino Hills, and the City of Angels is used to big point guards with next-level passing ability. Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma has averaged 20.5 points in large part due to Ball's pinpoint passes.

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson immediately laid out his expectations after drafting Ball: for the rookie's number to hang from the Staples Center rafters. And the former UCLA star is making the architect of Showtime and owner of five championship rings look like a soothsayer.

“Passing translates. I don't care what level you're on,” Johnson told Lakers.com. “Lakers fans are thirsty. ... This team will be exciting and it starts with that point guard position. “

Lakers fans in Vegas are all on board for the Ball era.

“I like the idea the Balls are taking control of their own lives and trying to start their own brand and do things their way,” said Mark Appelbaum, 51, who sat courtside in a Kobe Bryant high school jersey. “It's brought life and excitement back to the Lakers because Lonzo brings life and excitement with the way he plays.

“I don't look at it as being brash. I look at it as being confident. ... I think it's funny that people are making a big deal about it. He's just doing what he wants.”

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