The Los Angeles Lakers may not be widely considered the playoff shoe-ins his father proclaims they are, but Lonzo Ball’s first Lakers team is the Las Vegas Summer League favorite, according to one sports book.
After his first summer league post-practice media availability, Ball said taking the whole tournament is the plan when asked what he was looking to do in Las Vegas.
"Win the whole thing,” Ball said, according to Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet, and he wasn’t the only member of the Lakers to set such a lofty goal. Sophomore center Ivica Zubac also said winning summer league was among his list of things to accomplish during his second go-round in Las Vegas, in addition to his previously stated desire to “dominate” the event.
Aside from elevating the Lakers towards a title, Zubac also admitted that if he wants to fully take advantage of Ball’s preternatural passing ability, he’ll have to continue to work on his elevation:
Zubac says he wants to connect on a bunch of lobs with Lonzo Ball but, um, his vertical is only 10 inches. "I'm trying to get it to 12."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 5, 2017
Lakers summer league head coach Jud Buechler also wants to win summer league, but as is typical for coaches, his main goal for Las Vegas was a bit more practical:
"We were 30th in defense last year and that has to change. It has to change right now." - Lakers summer league coach Jud Buechler— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 5, 2017
The Lakers can build up better defensive habits no matter which players are in the lineup. However, a big part of whether or not they’ll win the summer league championship will be how many games sophomore forward Brandon ingram plays in Las Vegas.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka previously said Ingram would play “a handful” of games in summer league, which would seem to imply he won’t take part in the Lakers’ whole run. Ingram himself wants to play it by ear:
Brandon Ingram says he plans to play at least three summer-league games and then see how he feels after that.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 5, 2017
Ingram has previously said he wants to average 40 points in summer league this season, and typically if second-year talents play even close to that well in Las Vegas their teams decide they’ve seen enough and shut them down.
Even if Ingram doesn’t quite hit 40 points per game, the Lakers already like the intangible improvements he’s shown so far:
Lakers Summer League coach Jud Buechler said there’s been a big change in Brandon Ingram: “You can tell he's starting to emerge as a leader"— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 5, 2017
Jud Buechler on Brandon Ingram's leadership: "It’s really his team, I’m looking at it like this is his team this summer to be in charge of."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 5, 2017
Ingram and Ball are both expected to be the leaders of the Lakers going forward, and the former likes what he’s seen from the latter so far on that front as well:
Lonzo Ball’s locker is right by Brandon Ingram’s. Lonzo says him and B.I. talk all the time.— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 5, 2017
Ingram described Lonzo as 'very unselfish': "He pushes the paces on the offensive end. I think he's going to create a lot of easy shots."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 5, 2017
Biggest way Brandon Ingram sees the addition of Lonzo impacting his own game? Getting easier baskets, especially in transition.— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) July 5, 2017
The Lakers’ new dynamic duo and the rest of their young roster will get their first chance to prove themselves when they hit Las Vegas for summer league. The Lakers quest for the summer title begins when they take on the LA Clippers Friday, July 7.
You can watch a few videos of them practicing below: