On June 22nd, Los Angeles Lakers fans will hear the name of the newest member of the franchise. In a stacked draft class, fans of several teams have no clue who their team will draft. However, Lakers fans have heard a familiar name echoing for a while. Whether it be reports about his father, or news on the audacious Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball is everywhere. On draft night all eyes will be on Ball, with the UCLA star expected to be a top-three pick. Favorites to land Ball are of course the Lakers, with Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka reportedly very interested in the extremely talented prospect. Now, not everyone is sold on the guard out of UCLA, with several league executives doubting if Ball is a franchise player.
There is one key factor in all of this, and as usual, money plays a big part. A strange as it sounds, one huge deal could be the difference between the Lakers drafting or passing on Ball.
Los Angeles Lakers Time Warner Cable Deal
In 2011, the Lakers agreed a 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable. The deal is worth $4 billion and is currently the most lucrative TV deal in the NBA. This deal leads to all non-nationally televised Lakers games being shown on Spectrum Sports, making it the official home of Lakers Basketball. Now, the value and importance of this deal goes beyond the money. $4 billion is enough for Time Warner to influence the Lakers on and off the court.
Ball is the biggest story entering this years draft. Whether it’s LaVar Ball and his antics or the family brand, Ball can’t escape the headlines. Ball has the potential to be a star, but he comes with a lot of baggage. Off court issues and various other question marks, have led to Ball falling short of being the unanimous No.1 prospect.
Time Warner Influence
Time Warner pay the Lakers such large sums because the show in Los Angeles is huge. Lakers games are often sold out, with the teams struggles rarely getting in the way. Now, a bad team is okay, but not ideal for a company like Time Warner. If the Lakers draft Ball, there is no guarantee he will work out in the NBA. Like most top picks, it’s basically 50-50 and Ball is no different.
If drafted, Ball will sell out every NBA Summer League game he plays in. Sell more jerseys than any other rookie in recent memory. This would lead to TV ratings going through the roof. Ball would be must watch TV because of the almost worn out hype machine. Everything mentioned above is ticking boxes at Time Warner, it’s the perfect storm for a TV network. You could make the argument that Ball moves the needle more so than a high profile free agent signing. Nobody is rushing to their TV to watch Kyle Lowry or Gordon Hayward, but Ball, even as a rookie could break records.
So, it’s very simple. Ball is the perfect pick for Time Warner. The Lakers are keen, the networks are dribbling and fans are excited. After all, what could go wrong?
Oh yeah… Everything.
The Much Anticipated Workout
This week, Ball had his much anticipated workout with the Lakers. Reports on the workout were confusing, with some saying the Lakers were pleased and others the opposite.
The Lakers have Been Influenced Before
If you think this could be a one off, then you would be wrong. Remember when Kobe Bryant signed his massive extension, that was this situation, just a different name. Bryant would sign a huge 2-year, $50 million deal to remain with the team. Bryant would see out the final years of his career in LA, with the Lakers and Time Warner the main beneficiaries. The fans got to see their star man every night (well almost every night) and the network kept their main draw.
To some, the Bryant deal didn’t make basketball or financial sense. An injury prone Bryant would be the team’s highest paid player and win 38 games in two seasons. However, when you think about it, the deal made perfect sense. Time Warner needed a star to keep TV audiences not only turning up, but coming back game after game. Bryant was that guy, so the Lakers secured a future Hall-of-Famer and fan favorite and Time Warner has their star.
Nobody really knows which direction the Lakers will go in, but the influence is their and if it can happen once it can always happen again.