Ever since being selected with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball has drawn an endless amount of comparisons to president of basketball operations Magic Johnson for their similar style of play and shared position.
Both Ball and Johnson additionally enjoyed successful collegiate careers leading up to their selections and represented a new, exciting era of Lakers basketball. Of course, Johnson holds an edge there as he led Michigan State to the NCAA title.
One key difference between the two, with the Lakers, however, is that Johnson was fortunate enough to inherit a talented team with many veterans already in place, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, to name a few.
That wasn’t the case for Ball, who was thrust into a leadership role on one of the youngest teams in the league. Furthermore, the Lakers were coming off a historically bad season.
Johnson pointed out that having a veteran point guard in Norm Nixon by his side was beneficial for his rookie season, and opines that the lack of an experienced point guard on the current Lakers roster has made Ball’s transition to the NBA much more difficult, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I’ll tell you what I had that he doesn’t have. I had Norm Nixon. Because Norm played the point guard position, he was able to take me aside before every game, in practice, and give me really good nuggets on how I should approach this guy, how I should play him, what he’s going to do to me, and on and on and on. We don’t have a veteran guy, in terms of a point guard, that can help Lonzo along the way and teach him the ropes. So he’s thrown in and he has to learn game by game, and that’s hard for a rookie at the point guard position. Also, I wasn’t a hometown guy. The pressure of being from L.A., I think he’s handled that well. Also, I didn’t have a shoe, Michael Jordan didn’t have a shoe, Larry Bird didn’t have a shoe as a rookie. He’s really balancing a lot of different things. I just hope that he gets his rest. He understands that basketball must to be first.”
That being said, Johnson also revealed future plans to begin watching game film with Ball, and intends to take up a mentorship role with him as well. Johnson said the relationship will extend beyond matters on the court, should Ball so please.
While Ball has noticeably struggled with his shot in the early going, he has done an excellent job at creating looks for his teammates. That was most recently evident on Thursday night, when the 20-year-old found a wide-open Brandon Ingram for a game-winning 3-pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ball recently fought with tightness in both calves but has still managed to cash in a solid performances in back-to-back road wins.
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