Much was made of what the future held for Lonzo Ball after the Los Angeles Lakers signed Rajon Rondo in free agency. Particularly since it was followed by a report that Rondo would be given the opportunity to win the starting job at point guard.
The position battle was in some regarded decided before it got going as Ball recovered from offseason knee surgery. He only played in the Lakers’ final two preseason games and he predictably went on to open the regular season by coming off the bench.
But when Rondo was suspended three games because of his role in a fight with Chris Paul, the minutes restriction came off and Ball was moved into the starting lineup. He responded with a string of three straight standout performances.
Ball remained the starter once Rondo returned, though put forth subpar efforts in back-to-back road losses. He said there was a need for him to be more engaged.
Ball was exactly that Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, when he was joined in the lineup by Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee for a second consecutive game.
“I just tried to bring energy from the jump,” Ball said. “We locked in for 48 minutes and played as hard as we can.”
The Lakers opened the game with an 8-0 run and also had a 15-0 stretch to build out a comfortable lead in the first quarter. However, the Mavericks seemingly had an answer every time.
Including in the fourth quarter when Luka Doncic’s driving layup tied the game. James split a pair of free throws and the Lakers ultimately held on for the win.
“I’m always happy with a win,” Ball said. “Obviously, we didn’t end the game we wanted to. We’ve got to keep learning down the stretch and do better.”
Ball finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists. He knocked down each of his three attempts behind the arc.