When LaMelo Ball enrolled at the SPIRE Institute in 2018, his father framed his son as somewhat of a savior.
"Since LeBron [James] left, I brought you a Ball boy," LaVar said during LaMelo's arrival in Geneva.
With the youngest of the three Ball sons emerging as a likely top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, a return to Northeast Ohio appears more than possible. But while previous comments made by his outspoken father made it appear LaMelo might not favor being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, LaVar Ball insists that's not necessarily the case.
"This is what other people need to understand: They asked me where I would like him to go. I said the Knicks, big city," LaVar Ball said on the Complex Sports Load Management podcast this week. "My thing is this: whoever the best coach is, that's going to believe in him and let him do what he does, I don't care where he's at."
The patriarch of the Ball family's comments come months after he implied he wouldn't want to see his son back in Northeast Ohio during an appearance on Undisputed on Fox Sports 1. Asked which team he saw as the best fit for Lamelo, a 6-foot-7 point guard, Lavar Ball said it was the New York Knicks, using a comparison to the Cavs as the reason why.
“The best fit in my eyes is New York, the New York Knicks,” LaVar said. ”Melo is a big-city guy. He likes the lights, he likes that, he loves it. So everybody’s talking about the city type of thing. Cleveland, he already lived in Cleveland, he [doesn't] like that cold weather like that, especially if you’re not going to be inside with a lot of bright lights."
According to Ball, he didn't intend to slight Cleveland, as his comments were only meant to express his desire to see his son wind up in New York. And the founder of Big Baller Brand also added that while a big market may be his top preference, what's more important is that LaMelo winds up in the right situation with the right coach.
"They said, 'Where would you like him to go, LaVar?' The preference is like the big city," Ball said on Load Management. "But I want him to go -- because you can go to a big city and have a raggedy a-- coach like [Lonzo Ball] had with the Lakers. That's what I'm saying, you've gotta have the best coach who believes in you.
"No player is going to be as good as he is until he has somebody that, like before Magic [Johnson] really got going. That guy, Paul Westhead, won championships, but to let Magic go, that's when Pat Riley came in and said, 'dude, do what you do.' Phil [Jackson] came in with [Michael] Jordan. You've just got to have the right coach that believes in you and lets you do what you do. And that's how you get to be successful. You could be good as hell, but if you don't have the right coach behind you, it's not going to work."
As for whether or not the Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff qualifies as such in Ball's eyes, that remains unclear. And with the NBA season on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it remains unclear when LaMelo will find out where he's beginning his career, with the Draft Lottery and NBA Draft having been pushed back indefinitely.
What does seem clear is that whenever the 2020 NBA Draft does occur, Cleveland should have a decent shot at bringing Ball back to Northeast Ohio. When the NBA suspended its season on March 11, the Cavs laid claim to the second-worst record in the league at 19-46, while the 18-year-old Ball, who spent last season playing professionally in Australia, is considered one of the top prospects in this year's class.