While the Los Angeles Lakers carefully ushered Lonzo Ball along the rehab process after he underwent offseason knee surgery, the gloves came off when Rajon Rondo was suspended three games for his role in a fight with Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets.
After appearing off the bench in the first two games of the season, Ball has since started in each of the last five contests entering Wednesday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. He stuffed the stat sheet in first three games but has regressed in two games since Rondo returned.
Following a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ball admitted to needing to be more engaged. “Getting into the flow more. Getting the rebound, that’s going to be big for me,” Ball explained after practice Tuesday.
“Getting a rebound and being able to push the ball, hit open shots and play defense. It’s going to start on defense. Picking up some steals, rebounding the ball. When I do that, my shot starts falling and I feel more into the game.”
When asked if coaches had addressed the activity level — or lack thereof — he was playing with, Ball took full ownership. “It’s on me,” he said.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn’t express any overt concern of the back-to-back subpar performances Ball had. He also considers the matter one that falls on the collective group in being addressed.
“It’s up to everybody. That’s what being a team is about,” Walton said. “A personal responsibility from each player to bring what they bring to the table, and then it’s our responsibility as a coaching staff to push them and put them in places to succeed.”
“There’s different techniques. Whether it’s being hard on him, encouraging him, running more plays for him. We see it. He’s a young point guard and we’re going to continue to monitor and continue to work with him.”
Walton did not reveal any insight as to whether or not Ball may be headed back to the bench now that Rondo has returned. Whether applied to himself or others on the roster, Ball is aware of a need to perform.
“We’ve got so many guys so if you’re not doing your job, you’re going to get pulled,” he said. “That’s just how it is. Whoever is clicking that day is going to play.”