When Lonzo Ball sat down at the Spectrum Sportsnet desk to do a television interview with hosts James Worth and Chris McGee on Lakers media day, Worthy acted like he saw a whole new player walking towards him.
“It’s the beef brother!” Worthy shouted, adding that Ball was “looking like the Hulk all of a sudden.”
Worthy wasn’t the only one impressed with how Ball has bulked up. Kyle Kuzma was similarly blown away by how the biggest thing about his teammate was no longer his Baller Brand.
“His upper body is built like a brick wall now,” Kuzma told the assembled media. “It’s very impressive to see his dedication.”
Kuzma and teammate Josh Hart have become famous for roasting each other, and Ball, on social media, but Ball’s gun show led to Kuzma and Hart agreeing on a compliment for a change.
“Obviously you can see that Zo improved his body, you can tell just looking at him from last year to this year how much stronger he’s got, how much bigger he’s got,” Hart said.
Ball’s biceps were noticeably bulging as he sat at the press conference podium, and he said the new gun show wasn’t an aesthetic thing. His new muscles serve a functional purpose.
“I think just me being stronger in my upper body, it’s easier to get to the rim,” Ball said.
And for as much as Ball’s unorthodox shot was picked apart last year because of how obviously abnormal it was, at least as large of an issue for Ball was finishing at the cup. Ball shot 49.4 percent within three feet of the rim last season, the worst rate of any Laker to appear in more than five games.
Ball hasn’t been cleared for 5-on-5 games yet, but if he’s right about his new muscles helping him get to the basket, then it could markedly improve his efficiency as a scorer.
Whether that happens or not, he impressed his coach by finding a way to get better despite recovering from surgery for most of the summer.
“Even though Lonzo wasn’t on the court a lot ... He was in the gym every day, he was in town, Monday through Friday whether it was lifting weights or doing core stretching just like the rest of (his teammates),” Walton said.
“The work ethic, the habits that they created speaks to who they are and how seriously they take the game of basketball, but it’s also the culture that we want and is going to allow us to have success for years to come.”
Players “gaining 15 pounds of muscle” has become such a cliche that #MuscleWatch is more of an internet meme than something anyone serious takes seriously, and often all the added bulk in the world doesn’t actually make that much of a difference in a player’s game. But if Lonzo can prove to be an exception to that narrative and use his gainzzz to take his game to the next level, then his improved upper body strength won’t be the only thing he impresses the rest of the Lakers with this season.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.