Los Angeles — With a possible suspension looming for starting point guard Rajon Rondo due to a punch thrown at Chris Paul as the Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets in their home-opener at Staples Center on Saturday night, Lonzo Ball couldn’t have picked a better time to (seemingly) regain his rhythm.
Ball missed basically the entire offseason as he recovered from knee surgery, and was only cleared in time to play in two of the Lakers’ preseason games. In the team’s first regular season game, he didn’t look good, but he bounced back in their second one, scoring 14 points on 5-10 shooting while hitting four of his eight 3-point attempts. Ball also chipped in 6 rebounds and 4 assists during his 26 minutes on the floor.
“He was good. That’s what we need out of him,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “When he just stops thinking and just plays, he’s brilliant. Some of those rebounds he was flying in and getting, some of those passes and plays he was making, the threes he was knocking down.
“That’s the beauty of his game is when he’s playing like that. It was good to see and it was fun to watch.”
Ball’s activity on the boards will help the Lakers with their strategy of team rebounding and then attacking in waves. On these plays, Ball showed how his skills can aid the team in securing the glass and keying the break:
Lonzo is also good at the type of "sandwich rebounding" Luke has been calling for. Here's an example pic.twitter.com/Cs7gWW70Gz— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 21, 2018
Ball credited his increased effectiveness to a corresponding uptick in the force and confidence he played with.
“Just being more aggressive, plus timing,” Ball said. “I was out for a long time. I’m taking it one game at a time.”
The aggressiveness Ball speaks of was evident in his shooting, as when he rose and fired without hesitation, his shot seemed to find the bottom of the net.
It was also obvious in his decisiveness when attacking the closeouts his improved shooting led to, like on this play, when Ball didn’t even need to pump fake and just drove past a rushing Gerald Green before throwing a lob to JaVale McGee once Ball’s dribble penetration had forced a rotation.
Lonzo lobs it up for JaVale!#LakeShow ( : @SpectrumSN, ESPN) pic.twitter.com/af7vyZhcm5— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 21, 2018
Walton wasn’t surprised that Ball was looking better in game two than game one, because he knew his sophomore point guard wouldn’t regain his rhythm instantaneously.
”He missed however many months. The whole summer, the whole offseason,” Walton said. “It takes a while to get a feel, and then we’ve got a whole new team, so it’s now all of a sudden (he has) to see how to play with guys, figure that whole thing out, and that’s how it works in sports. It just takes time.”
Ball may not get much more time to ease back in if Rondo gets suspended, but he says he’s ready if that’s what comes to pass.
”I’m 100 (percent). I’m ready to go,” Ball said.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.