When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, he was touted as the franchise’s next transcendent point guard. His father, LaVar Ball, was often the loudest cheerleader, but Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson wasn’t far behind.
During Ball’s introductory press conference, Johnson lightheartedly ask that he not break all of the Hall-of-Famer’s records. While expectations were sky-high, Ball represented the Lakers’ first point guard who prioritized distributing in the same mold as Johnson.
Where they differ is that Ball has largely been a polarizing figure. An up-and-down rookie campaign and inconsistent start to his sophomore season has led to Ball facing plenty of scrutiny.
The Lakers, however, and LeBron James in particularly, remain bullish on the 21-year-old. “I think sometimes he doesn’t realize how great he is,” James said about Ball after the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz.
“When ‘Zo realizes how good he is on the floor, it makes him a very dynamic player and it makes us even better. He’s been doing that as of late. His aggressiveness, even when he’s not making shots, just him getting to the rim, he missed a couple of them (but) that’s absolutely fine.
“A couple charges, that’s absolutely fine. When he’s aggressive it changes the dynamic of the team. He’s been doing that of late and we need him to continue. He’s very good.”
Ball had 9 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists in the win against the Jazz. He was active early and seemingly rode momentum from what finished as a strong showing in Cleveland.
In some part because of the bar that was set for Ball, it’s often forgotten how young of a player he is. And while he isn’t there yet, James has no concerns about Ball learning of his potential.
“It’s going to happen. He’s doesn’t have 82 games under his belt yet. I think every game is another teaching point for him,” James said.
“The experience is going to continue to happen more and more and he’s going to know what he does extremely well to help us but more importantly help him be successful. I can see it, but sometimes for you as the person, you’ve got to continue to figure it out. Like I said, he hasn’t even put a full regular season into the books yet.”
After preaching patience and expressing confidence in Ball, James was asked when he learned to strike the balance between scoring and facilitating for others.
“Probably after my sophomore year in high school,” he matter-of-factly said.