Lonzo Ball returned for the final two games of the Los Angeles Lakers preseason slate, and his impact was undeniable. Whether it was enough to push him into the starting lineup opening night still remains to be seen, but the time he spent on the court was very promising nonetheless.
Luke Walton noticed Lonzo’s absence as much — if not more — than anyone, having had to conjure up lineups to make up the lack of a second NBA-caliber point guard behind Rajon Rondo, and he told reporters as much after the game last night. (Via Spectrum Sportsnet)
“We’re thrilled to have him just keep playing. He makes some incredible plays, he keeps our pace going. He’s still knocking off some of that rust but he was good and he makes our team better.”
Look, neither game against the Golden State Warriors that Ball played in were under typical circumstances. For starters, both games were preseason games, and at that point in the preseason schedule, everyone was exponentially more focused on being healthy for the start of the regular season. Wednesday night, Draymond Green didn’t play. Friday night, LeBron James and half the Lakers' rotation didn’t.
Still, the Lakers looked noticeably more consistent on both ends of the court in the two games Ball played in. Point guards are vital for any basketball team as they’re largely responsible for a good chunk of the leadership typically, and for a Lakers team that has so many guys trying to grow accustomed to playing with each other, that leadership is absolutely crucial.
Ball also made his presence known on the defensive end, which continues the trend we saw for basically all of last season. It’s not a stretch of the imagination at all to consider him one of the NBA’s best defenders at his position and maybe even in general. If the Lakers want to play fast, they’re going to need stops. Having Ball back showcased this, and the Lakers looked a lot better as a result.
Here’s hoping Luke noticed enough to understand who the better point guard is between Lonzo and Rondo.