LeBron James and Lonzo Ball had never played on the same team before they suited up together as the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, not even in a scrimmage, but the instant chemistry the two displayed on the floor made it seem like they had been longtime teammates.
Early in the second quarter Lonzo ran off of a screen from Kyle Kuzma and cut to the basket, where James found him for an alley-oop dunk on a play in which the Lakers too often missed that Ball was open last season:
And it wasn’t just how easy the play looked that made it seem like James and Ball had been playing together a lot longer than just a few minutes. Players shouldn’t be expected to talk themselves up after one nice play in a preseason game, but how thoroughly unimpressed both James and Ball sounded about the alley-oop made it seem like they had been connecting on them for years.
“That’s my first time playing on his team, but that’s my play,” Ball added, publicly unfazed by his childhood idol throwing him open for a dunk.
The two were also in agreement about what the only issue for Ball will be as he gets reincorporated back into the lineup following offseason knee surgery: Conditioning.
“I thought those first few minutes was definitely rough on his wind, getting back in a game situation,” James said, although Ball felt like he regained his legs quickly.
“After the first quarter I was good. In the first quarter I was a little winded, but after that it was all good,” Ball said.
James liked what he saw afterwards.
“He settled in and his ability to see the floor, his ability to push the ball and his athleticism — which you see on the lob catch from myself — and then defensively, he has some very quick hands,” James said. “It’s great to have him back on the floor.”
Kuzma has played with Ball significantly longer than James has, and he expanded on how Ball’s return changes what the Lakers can do.
“It’s just that pace. He’s another person that can make plays, another person who can advance the ball, and is a really good defensive backcourt guard,” Kuzma said.
Ball looked good — especially defensively — on Wednesday night, and if he and James continue to display such effortless chemistry on and off the floor, it seems like only a matter of time before Ball has regained his spot in the starting lineup.