Lonzo Ball is scrutinized and doubted as much, if not more than, just about any other athlete in professional sports right now. Will his shot ever come around? Can he fit alongside LeBron James? Does he actually make the impact on the Los Angeles Lakers that his supporters believe he does?
In reality, the answer to all those questions is something along the lines of, “maybe,” but despite all the second-guessing, the belief Ball has in himself has remained unshakeable.
That said, he also understands that he has to fit into the team construct right now if he’s to reach his long-term ceiling. He explained that balance to Scott Cacciola of the New York Times, starting with what he thinks he’s capable of:
“Obviously, I want to be an All-Star,” he said. “I want to be M.V.P. one day. But for me, it’s all about championships. When I play the game, I play to win.”
And Ball, who spent one year at U.C.L.A. before turning pro, said he understands the stakes, too: “I’m from here, so I know how it is playing in L.A. If you’re winning, they love you. If not, they’ll find someone else to do the job.”
Even while playing alongside LeBron James generally makes the game easier on everyone around him, the role of starting point guard for the Lakers is not one that can be filled by anyone. The spotlight that comes with doing so while James is in the organization can be blinding, but Ball says he was ready for that:
As for Ball, James has been supportive of him, full of praise for the young guard in his interactions with the news media and on social media — and that means something, for now.
“LeBron’s one of the best players ever to play the game, so I don’t think he’d lie just because I’m his teammate,” Ball said. “I think he really sees something in me.”
As frustrating as playing with patience can be, James really does deserve credit for the way he’s supporting what’s best for the Lakers long-term as well as his own goals for the next few years. That Ball feels that confidence from LeBron is a huge development and might allow for continued growth both for Lonzo individually, but also in terms of what’s best for everyone around him.
Ball might think he can be an MVP, but for this team, he needs to fit in and grow in ways that make sense for this roster. That he knows what’s on the line and yet is willing to balance out his individual interests and the team’s can only be a good thing.