Lonzo Ball may have been benched in the fourth quarter of each of the last two Los Angeles Lakers games, but a permanent shift to the bench as a reserve isn’t something head coach Luke Walton is thinking about right now. It’s been a rough start to the season for Ball, but Coach Luke isn’t planning on any drastic shift to his starting lineup to reflect that.
“He's our starting point guard. There's no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench... he’s our starting point guard,” Walton said when asked if playing Ball off the bench is on the table, dismissing the idea.
Ball played 21 minutes, scoring just two points while missing all six of his three-point attempts. Making matters worse, he only dropped two dimes and grabbed five rebounds, but also had two turnovers. That all adds up to Ball ball having a team-worst -18 Wednesday night while on the floor.
“What was I seeing with Lonzo? That he was having an off night,” Walton said after the loss Wednesday when asked why he benched Lonzo down the stretch against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“JC is out there competing, and making the plays, and scoring for us, so it's our job as coaches to play the guys that are giving us the best chance of winning that night.”
Fast forward from the loss to practice the following day, and Coach Luke admitted Ball’s demeanor was different than usual during a “classroom” day studying film.
“His energy seemed a little... not the same playful, joyful, Lonzo that he normally is, but that could be a good thing, that could mean he's frustrated or mad a little bit. He was in the gym last night shooting after the game, he was in here before again early practice,” Walton said.
Coach Luke is committed to letting Lonzo keep the starting role, which is the right move, but is also proving to being flexible to the rotation in the flow of the game. Jordan Clarkson is having a great year, is a proven scorer on the court, and remains as one of the key young players on the team right now.
Clarkson’s earned those minutes just as much as Ball has been losing them with his play, and Walton is starting to call it like he sees it in the moment.
*Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com