Welcome to the Ball era

EL SEGUNDO – As Lonzo Ball sat down in his chair after being presented his brand new Los Angeles Lakers jersey, Magic Johnson asked the team’s first-round draft choice for one small favor.

“Just leave me one or two records, OK? That’s it,” said Johnson, president of basketball operations for the Lakers. “Don’t break all my records.”

With that, the Ball era officially arrived in Los Angeles.

The Lakers introduced Ball during a press conference at their practice facility on Friday after picking him No. 2 overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I’m happy to be home and I’m ready to get to work,” Ball said.

Cameras flashed and recording devices filmed as Ball smiled and held up his Lakers jersey, which donned the number 2, also his number at UCLA. Johnson and Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka sat on each side of Ball as he expressed how excited he felt that the Lakers chose him on draft night.

Ball said he “felt good” as he waited to hear NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call his name. When he received the call from Johnson confirming that the Lakers would pick him, he felt much better, he said.

“When they called my name, I was ready,” Ball said. “My family was there. It was just a great moment.”

As Johnson welcomed Ball, who he deemed “the new face of the Lakers,” he issued a challenge to the 6-foot-6 guard who led the nation in assists as a freshman at UCLA.

“You look to your right, there’s some jerseys hanging on that wall,” Johnson said to Ball, referencing the retired numbers of former Lakers greats. “We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day, alright?”

Ball agreed.

The moment was one that pointed to some pressure surrounding Ball, who was widely expected to be chosen second overall by the Lakers. Ball’s father, LaVar -who attended the press conference along with Ball brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo – claimed before the draft that his son would only work out for the Lakers and that he was destined to wear the purple and gold.

On Thursday, those predictions came to fruition. But Ball downplayed feeling any pressure when asked how he would handle high expectations.

“Playing the game of basketball, which I’ve played my whole life, is fun for me,” Ball said. “I know it’s gonna be fun here and I’m not worried about all that.”

Pelinka wasn’t worried either. From the moment he and Johnson scouted Ball, he knew that was the type of player he wanted.

“We feel like Lonzo is as transcendent talent,” said Pelinka, who compared Ball’s gift for passing with football players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. “We knew on a basketball standpoint, there were no questions.”

That left Pelinka with just one more question: Who was Ball as a person? For the answer, Johnson and Pelinka recenty decided to visit Ball and his family at his home in Chino Hills, where they saw LaVar coaching his sons and over a dozen neighborhood kids, Pelinka said.

That scene, coupled with the family dymanic of the Balls that Johnson and Pelinka witnessed firsthand, cemented the organization’s decision to pick Ball.

“It was just a feeling where you left the experience and you said, ‘This is a family that is centered around treating people the right way and hard work and a high level of character,'” Pelinka said. “We see that in Lonzo. And we know that those leadership qualities are what’s gonna take the Lakers to our ultimate destination, which is winning an NBA championship.”

Johnson said his visit to Chino Hills “sealed the deal” for him picking Ball, and added that Ball’s future teammates will delight in sharing the court with him. Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., center Ivica Zubac and guard David Nwaba watched Friday as Ball was introduced.

Nwaba said he was excited that the Lakers picked Ball because they both have the same style of play.

“That was my pick,” Nwaba said of Ball.

While Johnson said he understands the pressure Ball might feel by being a top draft pick, he’s confident that Ball will overcome it because he’s had high expecations throughout his life.

“He has greatness written all over him,” Johnson said. “Now he’s just gotta go out and push himself, and we will, too.”

Ball even accepts the challenge that his jersey will one day hang on the walls.

“I think it’s a good goal to set,” Ball said. “So I’ll definitely be chasing that.”

West officially joins Clippers

LOS ANGELES – Jerry West considers himself an unconventional man who makes unconventional choices.

As a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he decided to leave the game in 1974 even though he would have been paid the highest salary in the NBA. When he ran the Lakers as general manager decades later, he left his job after winning a title and knowing more success was on the horizon.

In 2002, West thought it would be interesting to run basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, who at the time were the laughing stock of the NBA. After Memphis made three consecutive postseason berths, he left again, this time to retire.

But four years later, the Golden State Warriors called and asked him to become an executive board member. Six years and two championships later, he’s moving on to another situation that piques his interest: a consulting role with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I am not a conventional person,” West said Monday after being introduced at a press conference in the Clippers training facility. “I leave when things look the best.”

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Fultz works out with Lakers

EL SEGUNDO – While Markelle Fultz is widely considered a virtual lock at No. 1 in next week’s NBA Draft, that’s not stopping him from keeping his options open.

After a two-day visit earlier this month with the Boston Celtics – who have the No. 1 pick – Fultz sat down with his family to weigh some options. That discussion led to him visiting Los Angeles on Thursday morning for a workout at the Lakers’ practice facility.

And although the Philadelpia Inquirer reported on June 6 that Fultz would only work out for the Celtics, that was not the message Fultz gave after his workout with the Lakers.

“Me and my family never said that we was just going to work out for one team,” Fultz said. “After the last workout, we sat down, talked about it and then decided to come out here.”

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‘Hawks come back, top 66ers

LANCASTER – Before the Lancaster JetHawks saw a single pitch Friday night, they had already given up five runs to the Inland Empire 66ers.

But the JetHawks stormed back behind a 5-for-6 performance from shortstop Brendan Rodgers, and beat the 66ers 14-7 at The Hangar.

“I was getting in hitter’s counts,” Rodgers said. “They were throwing it off speed, and I’m just getting it out up over the plate and putting a good swing on it. I did get a few lucky knocks tonight.”

Rodgers had a home run, two RBIs and scored three runs, while right fielder Sam Hilliard went 2-for-6 with a home run and four RBIs.

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Paraclete football moves up for playoffs

Four Antelope Valley football teams moved into higher divisions in the CIF Southern Section, according to playoff pairings released Wednesday.

Paraclete, which won the CIF State Division 3AA championship last season, moved up from the Southern Section Division 6 to Division 5. Antelope Valley, in Division 9 last year, went up into Division 8.

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Ball works out for Lakers

EL SEGUNDO – Lonzo Ball believes he’s the best player in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft. On Wednesday, he got his first opportunity to prove that.

Ball worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers at their practice facility in front of general manager Magic Johnson and the team’s coaching staff. The workout consisted of “a lot” of shooting drills and running, he said, adding that the session tired him out.

But when he spoke with reporters after his workout, Ball eluded more to how his personality would fit the team rather than what he specifically could do on the basketball court.

“They have a lot of good players,” Ball said of the Lakers. “I just think they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel I can bring that to the team.”

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Spirits rise at state

CLOVIS – All of the athletes that advanced to the CIF State Track and Field Finals earned medals on Saturday at Buchanan High School.

The Quartz Hill High School girls 4×400-meter relay team came away with the highest finish – a fourth-place finish in an event they have dominated all postseason.

Senior Shilah Bedingfield, junior Alonna Johnson and freshmen Iman Babineaux and Janae O’Neal finished with a time of 3 minutes 47.98 seconds, earning them a place on the podium.

“It feels amazing to once again medal,” Bedingfield said while a fireworks show bellowed in the background celebrating the end of the State Finals. “It feels accomplishing. We did all this hard work for seven and a half months straight. So now that we got here to the final day and medaled, it shows how hard work pays off.”

The Paraclete High School boys 4×100-meter relay team earned the second-highest finish. Seniors Zack Nelson, Branden Smith, Bobby Brown II and Allunzoe Jones finished fifth overall with their time of 41.57 seconds.

“I feel extremely blessed to come out here and be able to compete with my friends, my family,” Jones said. “It’s been an honor to compete in two state championships this year and I’m glad we got to make it this far.”

Antelope Valley High School senior Tyrese Dedmon earned a medal with his sixth-overall finish in the triple jump, going a distance of 46 feet, 6inches. Dedmon said felt good winning a medal, but because he’s a competitor, he’s “never really satisfied” unless he wins.

“Medaling at State – my first time ever coming to State – it’s a big accomplishment,” Dedmon said. “It’s acceptable.”

All four Paraclete boys graduated Friday less than two hours after advancing to the State finals. Saturday marked their last athletic competition as Spirits.

“It was really emotional and exciting,” Nelson said. “There’s no better track meet to finish off your high school career with.”

Smith and Jones were members of Paraclete’s football team that won its first state title in school history last fall. Nelson broke the school record in the 300 hurdles at the CIF Divisional Finals two weeks ago.

Brown said what he’ll remember most about competing in athletics at Paraclete is “the people I went through it all with.”

“They really make it worthwhile,” Brown said.

Dedmon will go on to play football at the University of Idaho. He said his experience competing at high levels as a track athlete can translate into his time as a college football player.

“It’s still high school, but making it to the state championship, that’s big,” Dedmon said. “Not everybody makes it. So just being able to compete on these types of stages, that’s huge. It gets you ready to be on a college level and compete in front of thousands and thousands of fans every week.”