Considered one of the better small forwards of the 1990s, Ceballos was instrumental in transforming the Lakers back into a competitive team following three losing seasons. Acquired from Phoenix in exchange for a future draft pick (Michael Finley) during the 1994 off-season, Ceballos made an immediate impact, averaging a career-high 21.7 points per game in 1994-95 as the Lakers won 48 games, 15 more than the previous season.
The 25-year-old scored 50 points in a victory over Minnesota at the Forum on Dec. 20, 1994, becoming the first Laker in more than 20 years to match the half-century scoring mark. Ceballos, who was selected to the 1995 All-Star game but did not play because of injury, helped the Lakers to the conference semifinals in the playoffs – their furthest postseason trek since their 1991 NBA Finals appearance.
He led the team in scoring again during the 1995-96 season (21.2 ppg) to become the first Laker since James Worthy (1989-91) to average more than 20 points in consecutive seasons.
However, cracks soon formed in Ceballos’ relationship with the team. He was briefly suspended without pay after taking an unauthorized leave following a game against Seattle in March. He missed two games (both losses), two practices and a shoot-around, costing him close to $55,000 in salary. Ceballos, who reportedly was seen at an Arizona resort during his time away from the team, said he left because of a family matter. He denied that he was upset over his decreased playing time following Magic Johnson’s comeback in January. The Lakers lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs and Ceballos struggled at the beginning of the 1996-97 season as he battled lingering knee problems. He then suffered a partially torn tendon in his right knee against San Antonio on Nov. 13 in what would be his final game as a Laker.
Less than two months later he was traded back to Phoenix along with Rumeal Robinson in exchange for Robert Horry and Joe Kleine. The Compton Dominguez High graduate played 11 seasons in the NBA before retiring in 2001 following a short stint with Miami.
Feb. 12, 2011