Lakers coach Luke Walton downplays LaVar Ball's influence on Lonzo

As the Lakers losses began to accumulate, the most famous parent of any of their players began to make his voice heard in more biting ways.

Lonzo Ball’s father, LaVar, felt that it was time to speak about the coaching his son received — he felt the staff didn’t understand the best way to coach Lonzo whom he had coached throughout his life, and how to get the best out of him. He felt their in-game decisions weren’t conducive to how Lonzo played — for example, LaVar doesn’t feel Lonzo should sit to start fourth quarters. LaVar felt that his way would produce more wins and he wasn’t afraid to say so in multiple interviews.

At least outwardly, Lakers coach Luke Walton brushed off the comments.

“We don’t take parents’ opinions into our coaching decisions and how we’re trying to grow as a group,” Walton said. “The relationship with Lonzo means a lot to me so I stay in constant contact with him and how he’s doing. But as far as other people’s thoughts on what we should do, I don’t concern myself with those.”

Lonzo was asked Friday if he agreed with his father’s criticisms.

“He just speaks his mind, whatever he feels he is going to say, not going to hold nothing back,” he said. “My job is just to play.”

LaVar had never meddled with the staff at UCLA, and UCLA coach Steve Alford said he never called to complain.

But the Bruins were 31-5, leaving little room for complaint. There were those who wondered how that might change when the Lakers inevitably struggled this season.

Since the start of the Lonzo Ball era with the Lakers, the team has been wary of his father’s public persona. During Lonzo’s introductory press conference, the Lakers whisked away LaVar after a brief group interview session had begun. Internally there are those who bristle when LaVar speaks, and that held true long before his words took direct aim at Walton.

At least outwardly, Walton is not expressing concern about LaVar’s influence on his son.

“They have their own relationship,” Walton said. “Lonzo does a great job of doing what we ask him to do. I don’t know what they talk about in private, but Lonzo’s an incredible team player. He’s here to make our team better. He’s always been on board with what we try to do.”

And the Lakers’ most recent outing — the second road game which LaVar Ball has attended this season — ended with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers and LaVar declaring he was happy.

“I heard him while I was in the locker room,” Lonzo Ball said. “I was laughing, I knew he was going to be there, I knew he was very happy that we won, so that’s good.”

At this point, nothing his father says comes as a surprise to Lonzo.

“I’m 20 now,” Lonzo said. “He’s been talking like that, so I’m used to it.”

Lopez evacuates his cat

When the car service Brook Lopez ordered for Wednesday morning arrived, it collected two guests.

The first was Lopez. The second was Poupin, Lopez's 10-year-old cat.

“I got a car service for my cat,” Lopez said.

With the Skirball fire threatening Lopez's Bel Air Crest neighborhood, he didn't want to risk leaving his cat at home. So he rode with Poupin, who traveled inside a carrier, to the Lakers facility. Then he sent the car on to Fresno, where his mother waited to collect Poupin.

“He got there safely, he got to my mom's house,” Lopez said. “It was a bad day for him because he probably didn't know what was going on, why he was in the carrier, then he had to go to the vet when he was in Fresno right away to get shots.”

The fires that have ravaged Southern California this week have inflicted unimaginable tragedy upon people and animals. Horses have burned to death in multiple locations. Wildlife is fleeing. Police are working to save pets and animal welfare groups are imploring pet owners not to forget their four-legged family members.

Lopez needed no such urging. And he had the luxury of not asking how much it cost.

“My financial guy is going to be mad at me,” Lopez said. “I wasn't fiscally responsible.”

Lopez figures Poupin was probably a bit confused and disoriented, but getting him out of his house was for the best.

Though Lopez said his home has not been damaged to his knowledge, his neighborhood was on alert. As soon as the Lakers' flight took off, Lopez began getting text messages from his agent and his mother letting him know his neighborhood had been evacuated.

LAKERS TONIGHT

AT CHARLOTTE

When: 4 p.m.

On Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes, Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Hornets lost to the Chicago Bulls in overtime on Friday night. They were playing without big men Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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