When Lonzo Ball is fully attentive to what he has to do to help the Los Angeles Lakers win, he’s about as impactful as any player at his age. He wreaks havoc defensively, then reaps the rewards of that chaos to help the Lakers get out in transition. Recently, he’s been setting screens so as to stir up opposing defenses, too.
The problem is, like most 21-year-olds, Ball’s attention tends to wander a little bit, leading to inconsistency that puts the Lakers in a tough spot. Again, this isn’t unique to Ball, but the difference is a little more stark because of the impact he can make.
Rajon Rondo, his veteran counterpart on the roster, has noticed this and goes about fixing it in a very Rajon Rondo way — and a way we should note it seems Ball is OK with — as detailed by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
Ball has admitted to having difficulty getting engaged at times -- and Rondo has been tasked with unsealing the former No. 2 pick’s potential. He has been in Ball’s ear to rebound, push the ball in transition and post up smaller defenders.
”Yeah, he’ll try to get into me,” Ball said. “Just stuff to try to get me going. He talks a bunch of trash in practice all the time, which makes me pretty mad.”
”I told him, my whole life I [respond to] getting yelled at [by the coach] so that is how I respond ... if you see stuff, just yell at me. I tune into it. That is how he tries to help me out.”
Throughout the organization, everyone seems to recognize not only how important Lonzo is to the Lakers’ success, but just how good he could be if he maintained a consistent level of energy and attention to detail.
Luke Walton and his coaching staff started having Ball set screens so as to keep in invested on offense despite a somewhat awkward fit with LeBron James. Now you’re hearing about Rondo trash-talking his way into Ball’s heart. It’s great to see.
Also interesting is that Lonzo seems to be reiterating what his father said about how he needs to be coached. This isn’t to say Walton has been doing so wrongly or poorly, only that being harsh with him is what gets Ball going. At the time, people took it as LaVar Ball telling Walton how to do his job, but hearing this now from Lonzo, perhaps the Big Baller Dad might have been on to something.
All that aside, the larger point here is how important it is that Lonzo stays focused while Rondo is out. The Lakers simply can’t afford to have his attention wane, seeing as he’s the only even somewhat proven commodity at the position on the roster. Alex Caruso could theoretically step in for small stretches, but there are 48 minutes to play at this position and the Lakers are best off by far if Ball is the one playing the vast majority of that time.
The Lakers will take on the Orlando Magic on Saturday night in the first of many games Rondo will miss over the next month. Even if Rondo won’t be with the team on Saturday, hopefully his vocal leadership from the sidelines can help Ball stay effective once he rejoins the team on this next stretch.