Lonzo Ball made his preseason debut Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors, appearing off the bench to play 23 minutes. Ball’s first shot attempt was a 3-pointer that he air-balled, but it was one of the few down notes on an otherwise positive performance in Las Vegas.
“After the first quarter I felt I was good. First quarter, I was a little winded,” Ball said of playing in an NBA game for the first time since late March. “You can’t really get a good feeling of what a game is going to be like unless you get into it.”
Ball’s early rust and fatigue were apparent to Lakers head coach Luke Walton and LeBron James, but the three-time champion quickly established a chemistry with the young point guard. While Ball had participated in scrimmages, he and James had yet to play on the same team.
You wouldn’t have noticed when the Lakers came out of a timeout with a set play that resulted in James connecting with Ball on a lob pass for a slam dunk. “That’s my play,” Ball said. “We run it all the time and he threw it up there for me.”
James, who had previously marveled at how well Ball moved on the court during practices and scrimmages, saw more of the same against the Warriors. “His ability to see the floor, his ability to push the ball, his athleticism, and then defensively, very, very quick hands. It was great to have him back on the floor,” James said.
While Ball’s return was highly-anticipated, James’ performance in the first half overshadowed it. He again didn’t play after halftime, but nonetheless made a sizable impact on the game. One that Ball enjoyed observing but was mindful not to get caught standing.
“When you play with LeBron, you’ve got to keep playing. He’s easy to watch, as much stuff as he does. He had a monster first half,” Ball explained. Best player in the world. We got to keep focusing. We got to keep doing our job. If you don’t bring it, you’re going to be watching it from the bench.”
Next for the Lakers is their final preseason game, against the same Warriors, on Friday night. The plan heading into the first matchup was Ball would play in both contests, health permitting. He appears to have passed the first test.
“Knee is 100 percent,” Ball said. “The only thing now is conditioning.”
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