While LeBron James is the unquestioned leader, he’s been equally inclusive of the Los Angeles Lakers young core and veterans on the team. James is among those who have noted the Lakers will only go as far as Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma can help carry them.
Ingram has struggled to adjust to playing alongside James, but it’s largely opened up the floor for the rest of the young core. Ball and Kuzma in particular, and on Saturday night the point guard joined James in making a bit of history.
They became the first Lakers teammates to produce a triple-double in the same game since Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so in January 1982. Ball and James are the eighth teammates all-time with a triple-double in a single game, and the first since Vince Carter and Jason Kidd in 2007.
Following their efforts in a blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets, James praised Ball and drew parallels between the two of them, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We just try to do a little bit of everything to help our team win. We’re one and the same when it comes to our playmaking ability. We’re always looking for our teammates and that’s the greatest satisfaction we can have when we see our teammates score the ball. We’ve always been pretty good rebounders for our position. Him at the guard spot, me at the forward spot. And being able to put the ball in the hole as well. We just try to be aggressive, attack the rim, make shots from the outside when guys disrespect us. We showed all that tonight.”
James additionally championed Ball as a leader of sorts for the Lakers:
“He’s had some great games. But tonight was another great game to put in his books. You look at the triple-double, but he also had five steals and he defended at a high level throughout the whole game. … I don’t know what [the triple-double] does for him but I think he knows the way he played, and we know more importantly. It’s not about how he feels. It’s us continuing to believe in him, because we do. He’s our starting point guard, he’s the head of the snake. It was a great game for him.”
Ball has flashed an aggressive mindset during stretches of his sophomore season, but his game against the Hornets was arguably his best of the year and one of the top performances in his young career.
As some critics have voiced frustration and bewilderment over Ball’s inconsistency, James has regularly come to his defense and explained the 21-year-old has not yet realized how great of a player he is.
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