Playing with high expectations on his shoulders was nothing new for Lonzo Ball. But doing so for the Los Angeles Lakers, as the No. 2 overall pick and championed as the face of the franchise, is a different story.
Playing in today’s NBA can also be particularly daunting for point guards, and especially those in the Western Conference. On any given night a player can find themselves starting opposite Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, among others.
Ball has already faced Curry and Paul, both of whom he’ll get an extensive look at this month. Much was also made of a game against fellow 2017 draftee and collegiate rival De’Aaron Fox.
But whether matching up with a perennial All-Star or lesser-caliber opponent, the UCLA product explained to Sam Amick of USA TODAY! Sports why his approach remains unchanged:
“I think you have to go into (every game) like everybody’s the same, because if you’re just admiring them then they’re just going to eat you up,” Ball had told USA TODAY Sports before tipoff. “If you look at everybody the same, then you’re going to be ready to fight.”
Ball had one of the worst games of his young career on Sunday against the Houston Rockets, scoring just two points and missing all seven shots, including three 3-pointers. Moreover, Ball had just one rebound and three assists.
Although it can be surmised James Harden, Eric Gordon, Paul and the Rockets team defense were a factor, so too was Ball playing through tightness in each of his calves. Though to his credit, the 20-year-old refused to allow that to serve as an excuse for his poor play.
Through 23 games, Ball is averaging 8.7 points per game, 6.9 rebounds and seven assists in a hair under 33 minutes. His 31.3 field goal percentage has been a source of constant scrutiny, but not for the Lakers who continue to highlight other intangibles and means by which Ball makes an impact.
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