Going from college basketball to the NBA is never an easy adjustment, whether a player is as highly touted as Lonzo Ball or relatively unheralded like Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart, and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton believes that it’s a “different” experience for every player.
Walton cited the “speed, size, strength of players” as just one of the many things rookies have to be ready for, and what separates the NBA from the college ranks. “You go from playing 18 and 19-year-olds to playing grown men. I think the speed and size is something that takes some time to get used to,” Walton added.
“Once you do, it kind of becomes normal and you’re fine with it. But that takes some adjustment. I think the consistency, how much we play, is really hard on rookies. To mentally be able to bring it for four games in a week, and back-to-backs, not really having many days off, is physically and mentally challenging for young players.”
Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball echoed Walton’s sentiment, saying that the more hectic NBA schedule has been the biggest adjustment for him.
To deal with the meat grinder that is NBA scheduling, Ball has taken ice baths far more frequently than he did in college. “At UCLA if I thought I needed one I’d take it, but here, I don’t go two days without taking one,” Ball said.
The extra wear and tear Ball is experiencing has potentially manifested itself in the form of shooting struggles. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has struggled with his shot, especially at home, where he is shooting 14 percent on 3-pointers compared to a decent 38 percent on the road, and he isn’t quite sure why.
“I don’t know. I go into every game shooting the same. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t,” Ball said.
Still, Ball feels as though he’s made progress in other areas, saying that his knowledge of NBA terminology and game film watching prowess have both improved as the season has gone along.
Walton likes what he’s seen from his rookies so far, but noted that with only about a quarter of the Lakers’ schedule complete, they still have a ways to go.
“They’ve been great so far. There’s obviously been some ups and downs, but it’s early in the season still. We haven’t gotten to those dog days yet,” Walton said.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they continue, especially because ‘Zo and Kuzma are playing such big minutes. Josh (Hart), not to say it’s any easier, but let’s see how they continue as we get into December, January and February. Even for veterans, that time of the year gets really challenging.”