Lakers select UCLA star Lonzo Ball with No. 2 pick in NBA draft

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Lonzo Ball spoke to Eyewitness News shortly after he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 2 pick. (KABC)

The Los Angeles Lakers have picked former UCLA guard Lonzo Ball in the NBA draft, setting up what they hope will be the start of a reversal in the team's recent misfortunes.

They continued to fill out their roster with two additional first-round picks. They took Utah forward Kyle Kuzma at No. 27.

The Lakers then traded their No. 28 pick to Utah, in turn receiving picks 30 and 42. At 30, Los Angeles selected guard Josh Hart of Villanova.

Ball, a Chino Hills native who excelled in his one year with the Bruins, had been widely projected by most experts as the team's likely pick with the No. 2 selection.

He is seen as a team leader, a talented passer and three-point shooter who helped UCLA turn around from a 15-17 record in 2015-16 to 28-3 and a deep run in the NCAA tournament this year.

Ball donned a purple Lakers hat over his all-black suit as he spoke to Eyewitness News shortly after the pick was announced.

"It's definitely setting in right now," Ball said. "I get to be a Laker, play for the hometown. I just can't wait to get on the court."

He spoke by phone with Magic Johnson, the team's president of basketball operations, after the selection.

"He was excited," Ball said. "As I was. We're just happy to get to work together."

Ball is also glad that he can play close to home so that his mother Tina, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, can attend his games.

His outspoken father, LaVar Ball, had thrown some doubt over the Lakers' decision, but for all his controversial public statements he also made it clear he wanted his son to play for his hometown team.

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Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and UCLA star Lonzo Ball, with his father LaVar in the background.

Interviewed right after the pick was announced, LaVar Ball was already wearing a gold BBB hat - his own Big Baller Brand in a Lakers color. He said he had set out a goal for his son to play for the Lakers since the day he was born.

And always one for big statements, LaVar Ball already had a prediction for the team.

"Lonzo Ball is gonna take the Lakers to the playoffs his first year," LaVar Ball told ESPN. "Come see me when he does. I'll have another hat on to say I told you so."

The draft represents one of the first big tests for Johnson and new general manager Rob Pelinka, both of whom were hired earlier this year to turn the team around.

Johnson welcomed Ball to the team, tweeting: "Rob & I were able to get our first choice this evening. Laker Nation get ready, we are off to a great start. Welcome to the team Lonzo Ball!"

Lakers Coach Luke Walton said he was also thrilled about the decision.

"Me personally, I love the way he plays," Walton told ESPN.

And Walton has something else in common with his newest player. His own dad, NBA player and commentator Bill Walton, is known for being a larger-than-life personality.

As a broadcaster who covers college basketball - and a former Bruin himself - Bill Walton has come to know the Ball family and likes them, Luke said.

"I've talked to my dad and he is a huge fan of the ball family," Walton said. "He said he's never had any problems with them. He does a ton of their games."

"My dad likes to say a lot of wild stuff, too. But I think what they have in common is my dad loves me. His dad loves him. And they've both supported us. And he'll continue to support 'Zo. I couldn't be happier to have him part of our group."

The Lakers' pick came right after the Philadelphia 76ers selected Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 selection. The Sixers had acquired the top slot in a trade with the Boston Celtics, who now have the third pick.

With the No. 3 pick, the Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum.

The draft pick comes only two days after the Lakers front office made another big offseason move. The team traded D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for veteran center Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the draft. They also already held the 28th pick.

There also continues to be talk of the team angling to acquire SoCal native Paul George from the Indiana Pacers.

The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, but have just completed the worst four-year stretch in their history - including posting their worst record ever, 17-65, in the 2015-16 season.

In Chino Hills, fans gathered at a local sports bar to see the pick live on television, hoping to continue watching the player they've cheered on through high school and college now represent the area in the pros.

"I've been watching the Ball brothers grow up in Chino Hills and going to their high school games," said one fan. "This is surreal!"

As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the pick, the bar erupted in wild applause and cheers.

Fans at a sports bar in Chino Hills erupt in cheers after their hometown star Lonzo Ball is selected by the Lakers in the NBA draft.

Online, however, some fans have offered a less-than-thrilled reaction that they will now have Lonzo Ball's father in their faces for possibly years to come.

"Lonzo seems like a very polite and mature young man. His father...seems like an idiot!" one fan commented on the ABC7 Facebook page. "Hopefully Magic and the rest of the Lakers brass keep LaVar far away from the team!"

"The best thing LONZO can do is fire his dad. Let his dad be his dad and NOT his manager," another fan posted.

Lonzo Ball himself told fans to not worry too much about his father's influence.

"Just calm down," Lonzo Ball said in the Eyewitness News interview. "I'm a Laker, just be happy for me. And watch when I get on the court."
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sportsLos Angeles Lakersbasketballnba draftNBAUCLALos AngelesLos Angeles CountyChino Hills
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