Lonzo Ball, Welcome to the NBA
It was electrifying in the opening moments. The arena was buzzing as all eyes were on the Los Angeles Lakers new golden child. Then it went downhill quick.
Lonzo Ball didn’t quite start things off the right way as the Los Angeles Lakers lost their Las Vegas Summer League opener to the Los Angeles Clippers 96-93 in the Thomas & Mack Center Friday night. Twitter couldn’t wait to put the Ball family to shame as Lonzo struggled in a forgettable performance, finishing with 5 points (2-15 from the field), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and a block to go with 3 turnovers. There was plenty of speculation on his release of the basketball, and whether his percentages from UCLA (55.1% FG, 41.2% 3PT, 66.8% effective FG) would transfer to the NBA level.
LaVar Ball didn't see this coming
Just how worried should the Lakers and the rest of Lakers nation fan base be? Don’t worry, not yet at least. Despite the fact Lonzo couldn’t get it going in his first game as a Laker, there are some positives to look at here. Sophomore Brandon Ingram looks like he’s ready to take on the main scoring responsibilities this season, not shy from creating and looking for his own shot off the dribble. Rookie Thomas Bryant is making it hard for President Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka to not save him a roster spot based on his energy and hustle around the rim. Josh Hart had flashes as a seasoned college player, ready to make a contribution.
From day 1 as a Laker, Lonzo was set to fail, with his father making all kinds of claims on Rookie of the Year, Lakers locked in the playoffs, etc. He’s not going to play good every game, especially as a young 19-year-old rookie. He’s not going to bust out of the gates and rebuild the Lakers from day 1. Ball couldn’t find the rim all night, while also being exposed on defense. Teams are gunning for his head and this could arguably be the best possible thing for Lonzo. I personally loved his attitude after the game, visibly frustrated at himself while also maintaining his professional composure to speak to the media.
When asked in the post-game interview how he felt:
“I liked the looks, a lot of them were open, I’m just missing shots. I just hate losing. The only way to go now is up,” Ball said. “That’ll probably be the worst game I’ll have all week, so hopefully I keep getting better.”
Despite him missing shots all night, he shot the ball when he was open. And that’s okay. His court vision and ability to run the floor was as advertised. Tonight was a moment where Laker fans needed a reminder that while there’s numerous hype around him, he’s going to need time and reps to become a better, consistent shooter.
Lonzo busted out in the opening minutes with a highlight
However, there are clear giveaways that Lonzo will need to work on. His penetration abilities as a point guard will need to improve, and utilizing passing lanes, especially in a Pick-And-Roll situation. Zo will also need to work on his drives, as he seemed shy to take contact and attack the basket. Those were glaring weaknesses in Lonzo’s game.
Compared to some of his fellow draftmates, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, and Josh Jackson, Lonzo’s stat-line was an eye-opener. Anyone who knows hoops truly knows a bad game is bound to happen. Unfortunately, it just happened on a night when the whole world was excited to see the controversy and hype around the Ball family.
As I stated in my previous article, I’m not truly convinced Lonzo is the savior of the Lakers. However, Lonzo Ball is a much better basketball player than he showed Friday night. Criticism is fair, but overreaction is silly. This is not UCLA. These hoops are certainly not the hoops in his backyard of Chino Hills. This is the NBA, where 20,000 screaming fans fill up the arena to watch. Lonzo Ball learned that today and he will surely have a better outing Saturday.