"Who?" LaVar Ball, the outspoken and divisive father of LiAngelo Ball andLos Angeles LakersrookieLonzo Ball, told ESPN's Arash Markazi on Friday when asked about Trump's involvement in the matter. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
UCLA freshmen Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and addressed the media Wednesday before being indefinitely suspended by the team.
Trump, who returned late Tuesday from a trip through Asia, raised the players' case with President Xi Jinping of China during a visit to Beijing last week.All three players thanked Trump during Wednesday's news conference after Trump tweeted that the players should thank him for stepping in and helping gain their release.
Later Sunday, Trump tweeted a second time, doubling down on his position.
The players were arrested and questioned Nov. 7 about stealing from high-end stores, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday that the players stole from three stores. They were released from custody after posting bail early Nov. 8 on the condition that they surrender their passports; they had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou before flying home.
"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," LaVar Ball told ESPN. "I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.' I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing.
"Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things, and they get stuck on them too long. That's not me. I handle what's going on, and then we go from there."
Lakers coach Luke Walton said he had spoken with Lonzo Ball and let him know the team is there for him if he needs anything.
"He's got more on his plate than I can ever imagine anyone having especially at his age," the Lakers coach said before the Lakers' game against the Nuggets on Sunday. "It is our job to be here and let him know what we support him and believe in him. I don't know where it gets too much and how he reacts to it. I've made a point to talk to him and let him know whether or not he needs it that my belief and our team's belief in him is 100 percent there."
Walton added: "To me it is all about the fact that we have three young college American students back at home...That is the most important thing. I am not really into the whole argument back and forth. I am just glad they are back home and able to be with their families and get an education."
When asked before Golden State's win on Sunday over the Nets, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr provided his opinion on both Trump and LaVar Ball.
"Modern life. People seeking attention, and they're both getting it," Kerr said. "I'm sure both guys are really happy. You know what would help? If all of you [in the media] just stopped covering both of them. Is that possible? You can probably stop covering LaVar. I don't think you can stop covering the president. I don't think that would work.
"It would be nice for all of us if both of them would just be quiet. That would be great."
ESPN's Chris Haynes and Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.
Ball: 'I didn't exercise my best judgment'
LiAngelo Ball takes "full responsibility" for stealing from the stores in China and apologizes for the incident.