When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick, there was little hesitation by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka in placing high expectations and a tremendous amount of responsibility on his shoulders.
Ball’s pass-first mentality drew comparisons to Johnson and evoked memories of his orchestrating the ‘Showtime Era’ Lakers. But concerns over Ball’s shooting struggles, which were historically poor to start a career, mitigated much of the enthusiasm that had built up.
Not within the organization, however, as Lakers head coach Luke Walton, Johnson and Pelinka maintained their confidence in the rookie point guard. Each regularly highlighted Ball’s ability to impact the game in various ways.
With the team recently having reached the midway point of the regular season, Pelinka told Mike Bresnahan during a “Connected With…” interview that he and Johnson met individually with each player. The purpose was to serve as a sounding board and provide feedback.
For Ball, that meant being challenged to become a more vocal leader as the next step in his growth, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We talked about the next big thing for him that we would love to see him develop is vocal leadership. And I think that’s a challenge. He’s got the respect of his teammates, because he plays so unselfishly. Guys love to play with him. So now if Lonzo can take what he’s done in terms of his teammates trust him because he’s an unselfish player, and he can become a vocal leader like Tom Brady, a great quarterback. Like Magic was, he was so vocal as the point-guard leader of the Lakers. That’s what we’re challenging him to do, and I think we’ve seen some of that. He’s definitely been speaking up more around the guys. We love to see that growth and progression.”
If there were any questions as to Ball’s importance and value, it wasn’t until Friday night that the Lakers won a game this season without their starting point guard. They had lost each of the previous eight such games.
As for growing into one of the team’s vocal leaders, Walton recently mentioned Ball as one of the players who had shown growth in that area. Ball agreed with the notion, explaining it was a means of still contributing while he sat with a left shoulder sprain.
Albeit just 20 years old himself, Ball has an opportunity to mature and develop with a young roster, and inch closer to potentially meeting the bar that has been set for him.
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