As the Los Angeles Lakers young core was working to come into their own last season, one question the group often faced was who could be considered a leader. Julius Randle was the most experienced but likely on his way out, after him was Brandon Ingram.
There were times Ingram spoke of wanting to a leader for the Lakers, particularly during late-game situations. That also applied to rookie Kyle Kuzma, while Lonzo Ball was identified by some as needing to be a leader as the team’s point guard.
The void was filled when the Lakers signed LeBron James and other veterans, namely Rajon Rondo. But the two remain sidelined because of respective injuries, leading to a slew of challenges for the Lakers.
“It’s just a big void to fill. Rondo and LeBron are arguably two of the best leaders ever,” Ball said after practice. “Having both of them out, that’s two of our main guys that do most of the talking on the court. It’s new for me, it’s new for B.I. Kuz probably talks the most out of all of us.”
Similar to Ingram, Ball himself is a mild-mannered. Thus when it comes to leadership, his preference is to do so through his play rather than vocally. “For me, it’s more about action,” Ball said. “I don’t think you can talk if you’re not doing your job. So, it starts with that for me and then go from there.”
Although that is Ball’s preferred approach, he’s understanding being a vocal leader is a requirement at certain points. “I think you could definitely lead by example, but there’s going to be a time where you have to speak up,” he added. “That’s just how it is when you play in a league full of grown men. You’ve got to talk.”
Filling such a role would not be completely foreign to the second-year point guard, but circumstances with the Lakers are different. “Every team I played on, I kind of been the leader for it,” Ball said.
“Guys looked to me to make all the plays pretty much. I had the ball in my hands pretty much the whole game. Now we have a lot of talent on this team. A lot of guys get the ball, and we just got to learn how to click and translate that into wins.
“In high school, it was easy. It was pretty much my whole family (as teammates). I played with my brothers and my cousins, so it was easy to talk to them. At UCLA, it was pretty cool. [Former Bruins head coach Steve] Alford kind of gave me the keys and told me to take the team as far as I could.”
Ball is also aware of the unconventional nature in which he prefers to lead. After initially saying he couldn’t name a quiet leader, Kawhi Leonard came to mind.
“I don’t know how Kawhi is,” Ball said, “But if I had to pick one, I’d probably say him.”
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