The Los Angeles Lakers will once again be without the point guard most tabbed as the starter heading into next season when they take the floor against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. Lonzo Ball has made enough progress to scrimmage, but not enough to make his preseason debut.
Ball also missed the Lakers’ preseason opener against the Nuggets, and Walton told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that Ball still has to progress a bit more before he’s ready for real NBA minutes (even preseason ones):
“Just doing more of that, getting comfortable with it,” Walton said when asked what the difference is between Ball scrimmaging in practice as opposed to being able to play in a preseason game. “That is 4-on-4, that is a controlled environment. It’s his body going through those reps more and more.
”And you can do that all day long [but] there is nothing like playing in those NBA games as far as how hard you have to compete and cutting and the way you get hit with screens. Just because he has been out so long, we are just trying to be patient with it.”
Still, Ball has made progress in returning from injury. Let’s start with some video of him scrimmaging to highlight the progress his knee has made, via our won Coach Svete.
Footage of Lonzo scrimmaging pic.twitter.com/okN0pZG5z6— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) October 1, 2018
Want some more? Okay, let’s have some more.
What’s that? You’d like a third video? Well okay then.
Lonzo finishing on the break pic.twitter.com/gHEIh3u2SU— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) October 1, 2018
The first thing that stands out to me are the guys he’s sharing the court with. This is mostly bench guys or teammates vying to even crack the opening night roster. To be clear, this seems like extra work Ball and everyone else is putting in and we almost certainly won’t get much (if any) video of scrimmages featuring rotation players.
Still, he does a lot of the things even in these brief clips that fans can’t wait to see on an actual NBA court. He’s also pretty obviously not going full speed, which probably factors into why the Lakers don’t quite feel comfortable clearing him for even preseason NBA minutes.
So there’s the good news. Let’s quickly discuss the bad.
Starting with the obvious, the Lakers need as many reps as they can get with a full rotation. As evidenced throughout Sunday night’s preseason opener, Luke Walton is trying out as many combinations as he can to see who works best together. The longer Ball is held out, the less opportunity he’ll have to go through that same process.
Let’s also consider the role Ball is slated to play. He was impactful enough when healthy last year to be seen as the clear starter this season. But if he stays out long enough, it’s absolutely fair to question whether Rajon Rondo makes more sense for that role considering the reps he’ll be getting.
Fortunately, even if that’s how things play out, the NBA season is long enough for Ball to show eventually that he deserves the starting role. It would just be nice to have that figured out sooner rather than later.
As we saw last year, the Lakers are taking an uber-conservative approach to Ball’s return. Last year, the Lakers could handle it as such without many repercussions because, well, the team wasn’t good enough for really any expectations. This year, they have to factor in their attempt at making the playoffs, a goal that becomes even tougher the longer Lonzo is sidelined.