Lonzo Ball earned a selection to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team but his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers still left something to be desired. His shooting struggles were more pronounced that expected, and Ball was saddled with multiple injuries.
During exit interviews, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka challenged the young point guard to improve during an offseason the front office deemed the biggest of his career.
It hit a bit of a snag as Ball underwent arthroscopic surgery on a balky left knee that twice caused him trouble during his rookie season. While it interrupted Ball’s offseason training, it didn’t prevent him from making strides.
“The good thing about Lonzo is he started early. He was in the weight room. We asked him to get stronger. Man, he put in the time,” Johnson explained at the UCLA Health Training Center.
Beyond physical work, Ball also became more of a regular in the film room. One session included Ball sitting with Johnson, Pelinka and Rajon Rondo. Pelinka deemed the insight and analysis shared pay-per-view worthy.
“It can’t be us asking him to do that. He had to want it for himself,” Johnson said of Ball taking more of an interest in watching film.
“He wanted to sit and watch film with me and Rob. He’s starting to understand that he has to be better. He understood that right after the season. He’s going to be ready to have a breakout season and build on what he did last season. I’m excited for Lonzo. He’s going to be fine.”
Further reason behind the optimism over a sophomore campaign for Ball is a refined shooting form. “He has worked to add more fluidity to his shot. You can see the spin and release where it is,” Pelinka said.
Rather than a complete overhaul of his shooting form, the Lakers have worked with Ball on improving his balance.
“He knows he’s not going to be called upon to do one thing — push the ball and pass — but with all our multiple ballhandlers, he’s going to have to be ready to play off the ball and catch and shoot,” Pelinka added. “He has worked hard on that, and we’ve seen advancements on all things.”
How it all translates into a game setting still has to be seen, and when that might be is unclear. Because Ball spent time off the court while recovering from knee surgery, he is not going to participate in 5-on-5 scrimmages when the Lakers open training camp on Tuesday.
Though, Pelinka clarified that’s not to suggest Ball is not healthy. He said the point guard was “100 percent cleared” by the medical staff for all basketball activity. Pelinka explained the decision to withhold Ball from full-court scrimmages is no different an approach than it would be with any other player who missed a prolonged stretch.
That would appear to make it unlikely Ball does not suit up for the Lakers’ first preseason game on Sunday, Sept. 30, but Pelinka would not state as much, or if Ball would miss any regula season games.