Lonzo Ball played one of the best games of his career on Thursday but was unfortunately hampered with cramps late against the Sacramento Kings. It was the kind of game that reminded even his most fervent detractors why those who believe he can be a really good player feel that way.
Luke Walton, who has firmly resided in the latter category, noted the impact Ball had after the game. (quotes via Lakers.com)
“The way Lonzo was playing tonight, I want the ball in his hands all the time,” coach Luke Walton said.
Walton would later reiterate that point by saying that had Lonzo not cramped up, he would’ve had the ball more often down the stretch. This seems to make sense, as any movement can set off more cramps once one occurs, and Ball was more valuable even slightly hobbled on the court than off it. This tactic couldn’t stop those cramps from knocking him out of the game, though, and his absence was felt.
When asked about his performance after the game, Ball said it came down to one factor:
“I was just tying to be aggressive,” Ball said. “We were missing Bron, missing Rondo. I just tried to step up personally.”
These are the types of games the Lakers want on a regular basis but especially now that it looks like they’ll once again be without Rajon Rondo for at least the next month and LeBron James will likely be out for the next couple weeks.
That need for Ball to show out the way he did Thursday night won’t go away when guys return, either. If the Lakers are really going to vie for a championship while James is with the organization, Ball needs to consistently play at the level we saw against the Kings. Yes, the Lakers hope that James and whichever second or third star they acquire will be enough to carry the load, but role players often are the separating factor when teams’ stars negate each other.
Ball was firm in his belief that he would play against Friday night against the Clippers and as of yet, we haven’t heard anything to refute his initial reading of the situation. Let’s hope he can replicate Thursday’s performance not just for this second game in a row, but a lot more often moving forward.