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Lakers’ Lonzo Ball endorses Earl Watson for UCLA’s next basketball coach

Lakers’ Lonzo Ball endorses Earl Watson for UCLA’s next basketball coach
Earl Watson, shown coaching the Phoenix Suns in 2017, has the backing of Lakers guard Lonzo Ball to become the next UCLA coach. (Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

Lonzo Ball would like to see Earl Watson become UCLA’s next basketball coach.

The Lakers’ second-year point guard spent one season at UCLA under recently fired coach Steve Alford and spoke well of him.

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“He’s a good person, good coach, he helped me a lot, but the job’s open,” Ball said Wednesday. “I’d like to see, maybe, Earl Watson get the job. I know Earl personally. I think he has coaching experience in the league. Obviously, he went there, he’s alumni, so I think he’s a good fit.”

Watson was a four-year starter for the Bruins and an All-Pac-10 Conference first-team selection as a senior in 2001. He played 13 years in the NBA and coached the Phoenix Suns from 2015 to 2017.

Ball brought up Watson after being asked about the search in general. Although he didn’t see much of Watson while he played at UCLA, Watson has advised him.

“I know he’s in the practice facility all the time in the summer working with guys and helping teams out,” Ball said. “I just know him personally off the court. He’s helped me with a few things off the court, business-wise. I think he’s a good person for the job.”

UCLA fired Alford on New Year’s Eve after the Bruins suffered their fourth consecutive loss. They are 7-6 after starting the season 4-0. It was the first time in the program’s history that UCLA fired a men’s basketball coach in the middle of the season.

“I got a lot of love for him,” Ball said of Alford. “It’s tough, but he’ll be all right.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shines

It was the most aggressive the Lakers had seen Kentavious Caldwell-Pope play all season and it is the same approach they want the 6-foot-5 guard to take even when the team is completely healthy.

Caldwell-Pope scored a season-high 26 points on the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.

He took a season-high 21 shots, making nine. He had a season high in three-point shots (13) and makes (five).

Caldwell-Pope displayed all this when the Lakers needed him the most, when LeBron James (strained left groin) and Rajon Rondo (right ring finger surgery) were out.

“I tell him all the time, he’s been playing great for us,” coach Luke Walton said about Caldwell-Pope. “The way he’s playing the game of basketball, as far as cutting without the ball, defending other team’s scoring guards, playing unselfish, giving it up. If he’s open, we want him letting that (ball) fly. He’s one of our best shooters and we need shooting. So, when he’s playing like that, we’re a better team.”

Before Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center, Caldwell-Pope was averaging 9.5 points per game. He was shooting 42.4% from the field, 36.3% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line.

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