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Lonzo Ball admits he had a ‘bad game’ in loss to Spurs

Lonzo Ball didn’t feel like he played well as the Lakers lost to the Spurs on Saturday night.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Lonzo Ball had his first start of the season with Rajon Rondo available, and he wasn’t thrilled with how he played. The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs despite holding a lead for a good portion of the game.

Ball was asked for his analysis of the way he played Saturday night and he didn’t hold back, telling Brad Turner of the L.A. Times that he has to get better.

“I didn’t play well tonight,” Ball acknowledged. “Bad game. I’m human. I don’t play good every game.”

Ball was asked if Walton gave the second-year guard more confidence about starting in the future.

“I’m not sure,” Ball said. “Whatever he decides. Tonight I got the start.”

That last bit about whether he’ll still be the starter is interesting. Maybe Walton is just as secretive with his lineup decisions with his players as he is with the public. Ball is also one of the least verbose players in the league right now. He just doesn’t give much away during his pressers. I don’t advise reading too deeply into this given both of those factors, but it stuck out all the same.

As a larger overriding point, it isn’t tenable to have Ball or Rondo wondering who is going to start on a nightly basis — not only as they prepare for games, but as they play in them. As much we might say that it doesn’t matter who starts these games, it kind of does to players.

If Ball is looking over his shoulder for the time when he might be taken out of the starting lineup, that simply isn’t a way to carry out the responsibilities of starting point guard. To be clear, he still has to find a way to make it work, but this isn’t how you put a second-year point guard in a place to succeed. To that end, Walton did reportedly tell Rondo the day before the game that Ball would hold onto his starting spot, so it’s likely he’d do the same with Ball if any change was made.

Regarding Ball’s actual play, when he’s effective, he creates havoc and then takes advantage of it as it happens. When he floats, he becomes a fraction of the player he should be. Saturday night, he spent too much time floating. Whether that has anything to do with him wondering when he might be replaced in the starting lineup or not doesn’t particularly matter. At the end of the day, he has to find a way to be a net positive.

At the very least here, it’s good that Ball took responsibility for how poorly he played. The Lakers are capable of exponentially more when he plays well, so he needs to figure out how best to do that consistently, and Walton needs to put him in situations to be able to do so.