Lakers head coach Luke Walton has talked about the evolution of Lonzo Ball several times this season, and on multiple occasions he’s preached the need for patience with Ball because of how his meniscus injury and the resulting surgery essentially robbed the former No. 2 overall pick of a real offseason.
Those who listened and displayed patience with Ball are starting to see it rewarded, as the young point guard’s play has perked up over the past few games. Ball told Aaron Larsuel on an episode of “The Official Lakers Podcast” that his improving play is no accident, as he’s been feeling better and settling in with his new teammates:
“I’m definitely feeling a lot healthier. This summer I really couldn’t do too much besides lift weights and watch film,” Ball said. “Then on top of that we have a brand new team. I took some time to settle in, we started off the season a little slow. People were worried, but we weren’t worried at all, we saw good things in film, and now it’s turned into wins and we’re just trying to move forward and keep winning.”
It should be noted that this podcast dropped last Friday, before the Lakers beat the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday and then lost to the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets, but Ball’s point about feeling healthier is backed up by his numbers.
Over the Lakers’ last five games, Ball is averaging 13.2 points, 5.8 assists and 6.2 rebounds on 46.6 percent shooting while making 34.5 percent of his threes. Those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but they’re better than what Ball has averaged over the course of the season and — coupled with his defense and that Ball only ranks sixth on the Lakers in usage rate over that stretch — is more than solid production.
And while the Lakers have gone just 2-3 over their last five contests, that has less to do with Ball’s play than it does with the team missing three key players for several of those games while in the midst of their longest road trip of the season so far. The Lakers may not want to use that as an excuse themselves, but it seems reasonable to assume it’s played a factor, especially when basically the whole team sounded like they were dealing with some sort of bug going around during their most recent postgame media sessions.
Even if it hasn’t translated to wins right away, Ball starting to show signs of growth and regaining some pep in his step is good news for the Lakers, both right now as they try to gel on the fly and long-term if Ball can prove that these leg issues were flukey, and that he’s not injury prone.
As Ball notes, it was always going to take some time for this rag-tag roster to come together. The Lakers might be struggling right now, but with Ball’s play trending upwards and reinforcements on the way, there is very little reason to panic as things stand currently.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.