A few members of the Los Angeles Lakers came up more than others Thursday afternoon as Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took the stage in front of reporters: LeBron James, Luke Walton and Lonzo Ball. There was a ton of effusive praise to go around, and Ball was the subject of a lot of it.
“Well the good thing about Lonzo, he started early,” Johnson said. “He was in the weight room. We asked him to get stronger and, man, he put in the time.
“And then, the one thing we were really blown away is that he wanted to watch film,” Johnson continued. “It can’t be us wanting him to do that. He had to want it for himself. And he wanted to sit and watch film with me and with Rob and we had, I don’t know, three or four sessions. And then, Rob told you what happened with all four of us (Magic, Rondo, Lonzo and Pelinka all watched film together), so it was wonderful to be in another film session.”
All that said, work without a purpose is pointless. But Johnson says his second-year point guard improved on all the little things the Lakers wanted to see from him.
“He’s starting to understand that he has to be better,” Johnson said. “Well, he understood that right after the season and we explained that this is going to be the most important offseason. And while he could be on the court, he looked great ... He’s going to have a breakout season and build on what he did last season, because it was only a couple things he had to do better.”
And what were those things?
“Driving to the basket and finishing. And (in) the midrange, in terms of get(ting) his shot to where he’s balanced. It’s not his shot. He just has to be on-balance,” Johnson said.
Those last two points (and I’m taking midrange as in off-the-dribble) are going to be where Ball can really push his ceiling, and his work in the weight room and a better understanding of the pace NBA basketball is played at should help with his finishing.
Ball’s balance is another thing altogether. The good news, however, is that the Lakers have already seemed pretty focused on helping Lonzo take strides in this respect. Shooting starts from the ground up, and if a player’s footwork is lazy or inconsistent, that shot will never really come around. It’s great to hear Magic voice this as one of the starting places of Lonzo’s development.
All-in-all (aside from some of Lonzo’s health concerns), the updates that came from Johnson and Pelinka Thursday afternoon were the kind that should get everyone excited, especially when delivered with that typical Magic Johnson gusto. Now that we know what the Lakers are focused on, we can sit back to see if the hard work pays off.