Lonzo Ball has been a polarizing figure prior to and since the Los Angeles Lakers selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He endured an injury-filled rookie season that still featured flashes of promise from the pass-first point guard.
Coming off knee surgery that limited his offseason workouts, Ball has had stretches of uneven play in his sophomore campaign. The latest dud came in a deflating loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night.
Ball 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots and 3 steals. He shot just 2-of-10 from the field and missed all seven 3-pointers. The bigger issue, in Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s estimation, was the poor shooting impacting Ball’s overall performance.
“I thought tonight for some reason he let the fact he was missing shots affect his overall energy in the second half,” Walton said after the 107-99 loss that snapped the Lakers’ winning streak at Staples Center at six games.
“He’s too good of a player and he’s too important to us to let that happen. People are always going to have off shooting nights, so find other ways to help your team win. Normally he’s really good with that. We can still win if he’s not making shots.
“It makes it more challenging but we’ve done it this season before. ‘Zo’s had off shooting nights but he does so many other things on the court that we find a way to win, or someone else steps up, and then he’ll make a big play down the stretch.”
Ball started the fourth quarter on the bench but checked in with 3:42 remaining as Walton went to his starting unit. He was replaced by Josh Hart at the 2:02 mark after missing 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Ball seemed aware his performance didn’t meet expectations, but the 21-year-old disagreed with Walton’s assessment.
“It didn’t get to me. I missed some shots,” Ball said of the missed shots. “If I had the same shots again, I would shoot them again. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot. Especially in the fourth. I’m very confident. Just didn’t make them.”
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