When you’re Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, everything you do is news. Even a haircut makes national headlines, thanks to Ball’s high-profile family and the level of hype he had as the No. 2 overall pick out of UCLA in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The hyper-focus on Ball has occasionally been positive, with the organization and teammates praising his passing game and team-first attitude. However, when things don’t go as expected, like when he isn’t shooting well or doesn’t play in the fourth quarter, the negative press can pile on.
And more times than not, Lakers head coach Luke Walton has faced criticism over his decisions as they pertain to Ball’s playing time in the fourth quarter. The rookie point guard again found himself on the bench over the final 12 minutes of an impressive 110-99 win on the road over the Charlotte Hornets.
Walton said Ball wasn’t showing any signs of being mentally affected by sitting another fourth quarter, and the second-year coach also made note of other players who were kept on the bench, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Lots of people don’t play in the fourth. But, reporters only point out that Lonzo doesn’t play. Brook didn’t play in the fourth, KCP doesn’t play in the fourth. So there’s lots of starters that aren’t playing in the fourth, depending on how our group goes. We’ve got a lot of players that are very similar in what they can do as far as where they’re at in their careers. If someone’s going, we’re going to let them go. Does it affect ‘Zo? I don’t think so. He was on the bench supporting his teammates, he was in the locker room after the game laughter with the guys. I know he wants to be on the court, and he’s really good at finishing games. He proved that in Philly. But part of being on a team is being happy for your teammates when they’re having success. That group out there was having a lot of success at the end.”
Given his stature, if Ball doesn’t play in crunch time it’s naturally going to be a talking point, but Walton is still correct. Ball not playing doesn’t necessarily mean that he did something wrong. Instead, it’s often as simple as someone else simply having the hot hand.
In this particular case, the Lakers had momentum on their side as they were clicking on both ends. Jordan Clarkson, in particular, was on fire and Walton made the decision to stick with him and let that unit keep rolling.
Walton made the right call and the Lakers walked away with the win. That’s the story that really matters.
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