If you haven't heard the name LaVar Ball yet, consider yourself lucky. The father of Lonzo Ball - one of the top prospects from this year's NBA Draft class - has been making headlines for almost a full year now.
He's seemingly never turned down an interview and has been a constant presence in the sports-talk landscape, especially as his son prepares for the draft.
Many draft analysts have wondered if LaVar's antics are going to affect his son's draft status, as many teams may not want to deal with such an outspoken father.
However, Bryce Alford, Lonzo's former teammate at UCLA, said he hopes NBA teams understand that there is a difference between Lonzo and his dad, telling reporter Bill Oram that Lonzo is one of the best teammates he's ever had:
“It’s just an unfair thing for Lonzo just because I think he gets a rep he doesn’t deserve," Alford said to Oram. "And I don’t want to say anything poorly against LaVar, I think he’s done a good job of getting him ready to be where he’s at and he’s helped him become a great basketball player. So, I don’t want to say anything that way, but he does get a persona that’s just totally not him. He’s an absolutely great kid, great teammate and truly cares about what his teammates are doing more so than himself. So if anything, I hope NBA people can see that.”
To be fair, it seems most NBA teams understand that Lonzo can't do anything about the headlines his dad is making on a daily basis, so they're judging him solely based on private interviews and his on-court performance.
Still, the cloud of LaVar hangs heavily over Lonzo, especially if the Los Angeles Lakers - the team heavily expected to draft Lonzo - decide to go in another direction.
If the Lakers don't select the talented point guard, it could lead other teams to question what the Lakers know that they don't. That could potentially lead to a major slide in the first round, unless Lonzo does enough to ease those other teams' concerns about his connection with his father.
Ball has recently turned down the opportunity to work out with the Boston Celtics, the team that holds the No. 1 pick in the draft. Instead, he'll work out only for the Lakers, who have the No. 2 pick, and maybe the Philadelphia 76ers, who pick No. 3.
Whether or not Ball's gamble pays off remains to be seen, but Alford's words speak a lot to the character of the star point guard.