Nonchalant is a word that could be attached to Lonzo Ball’s steady demeanor. He’s maintained his collected nature since being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, never letting anyone see him sweat. His confidence has been unwavering, leaning on the fact that he’s played with high expectations throughout his entire life.
But this is the NBA, and in his debut with the team, he found himself in the midst of a rude awakening. Thursday night it was Patrick Beverley dogging him, but in the next 81 games, everyone gets to take a turn at teeing off on the polarizing persona he’s become. Lonzo has a massive target on his back. Having one of the NBA’s peskiest defenders welcoming him to the big league should serve a clear wake-up call that this isn’t anything like the jump from high school to college he made.
This is the end game.
“I just had to set the tone, man,” Beverley said after the LA Clippers’ season-opening win. “I told [Ball] after the game, due to all the riff raff his dad brings, that he’s gonna get a lot of people coming at him. He has to be ready for that and I let him know after the game.”
Ball didn’t have much to say about Beverley rattling him after the game, but the boxscore says it all. One-of-six shooting, three points, two turnovers and four assists in his debut was a disappointing start to his Lakers career. Credit to Beverley for playing into the moment and controlling the matchup all night.
“That’s basketball, [Beverley] plays 94 feet. That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s a good defender, I just try to do what I can to get the offense going,” Ball said during his postgame interview.
The offense never really got going — an area of the team that head coach Luke Walton said was a low priority during training camp — and Beverley disrupting Ball was a huge factor in that. Lonzo had the worst plus-minus out of the Lakers’ starters, a -14 while on the court.
Ball found himself in a lion’s den wearing pork chop drawers, as Snoop Dogg brilliantly put it after the game:
Snoop on Lonzo: "His father put him in a lion's den with some pork chop drawers on" pic.twitter.com/oLFLc2qQ4J— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 20, 2017
Lonzo being out of commission in four out of the Lakers’ six preseason games certainly didn’t help matters, but hopefully going out of the frying pan and into the fire with Beverley gave Ball a chance to really feel what kind of pressure will be on him every night.
Walton said after the game that he thought Ball handled the situation well, and it was a positive experience for his young guard to really see what having a defender hounding him in the NBA will feel like.
“It was good for Zo. Beverley’s as good as anyone, if not the best at the point guard position, of getting into other people and getting under their skin. I thought Zo, like I said, he kept his composure.
“A lot of times when you get irritated then all the sudden you try to speed up and turn it into a one-on-one show, but that’s not what Zo did,” Walton said.
Game 1 was a lesson for Lonzo Ball. No matter how ready he thinks he is to compete against the best in the world every night, he’s still yet to prove he can stand his ground.
*Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com postgame coverage