Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka let Lonzo Ball know in no uncertain terms what their expectations were of him this summer. They compiled a picture book of what the biggest stars in the league looked like during their rookie year, compared what they look like 2018. The point was obvious.
“This year we’re challenging Lonzo and BI ... We want them to change their body,” Johnson said at the team’s exit interviews.
Much of the “just wait until he gets bigger and stronger” chatter in Lakerland revolves around Brandon Ingram, but the same notions apply to Ball. He was 190 lbs as a rookie, and often pushed around, fatigued, injured, or some combination thereof.
A nagging knee injury that required a PRP injection has kept Ball’s on-court activities to a minimum until recently, but he’s been a regular in the weight room at the UCLA Health Training Facility since the conclusion of the season.
In this installment of Laker Film Room, I take a look at the areas where improved strength and conditioning would functionally improve Ball’s performance, and ability to stay on the floor. Let’s take a look at some of the on-court benefits he can reap from the work that he’s been doing.
Offensively, Ball’s woeful finishing around the basket as a rookie was due in part to an inability to create separation from either his man or the help defender, as well as a lack of vertical explosion when jumping off of one foot. On the other end, his lack of strength was problematic on switches, which is a core tenet of what Luke Walton wants to do defensively.
Johnson said that this was the “biggest summer of (Ball’s) life,” and it would hinge on his ability to improve his body the way that Julius Randle did the previous summer. He appears to have taken the first steps down that road.