Tyson Chandler joining the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency after being bought out by the Phoenix Suns is one of the things that allowed L.A. to turn its season around and come closer to its full potential. He thinks there is another player on the roster that can take the Lakers up another notch if he continues to develop: Lonzo Ball.
“As far as the way you can impact the game, the only guy I played with like that is Jason Kidd, because he didn’t have to score,” Chandler said. “He could just control the game with his passing, by his playmaking, by his rebounding, by his defense. Floor general. I think those are what Lonzo’s capabilities are. He has to go there.”
Ball and Kidd are ultimately different players, though, even if Ball has the potential to affect games in a similar way with his crafty passing, rebounding, defense and pace-setting. Whatever type of player he’ll ultimately be is up in the air though, which Chandler understands, so he’s trying to help Ball it figure out:
“He’s finding himself right now. This is all different territory. Playing with me, playing with Rondo, playing with LeBron. It’s all different territory for a young guy trying to find his voice. So, I just try to encourage him to be himself.
“Keep searching for that voice. Keep being the leader that you are. I know it’s there. The instincts are there. It’s inside you. Keep growing. Every time you step out on the court, gain a little more respect. Get a little more belief in yourself. I ultimately think he’s going to be the one who is going to take us to the next level.”
Going unsaid is that the next level for the Lakers is championship contention, which Chandler joined the Lakers to pursue because it would mean more to him to win a title in his hometown. He’ll need Ball — another Southern California kid — to help him get there, and by being a good veteran and giving Ball someone to lean on, Chandler may ultimately expedite that process.
Since LeBron James injured his groin, Ball has begun to show more of his full potential while having to take on a larger load in the Lakers’ offense. If the added responsibility can give him the confidence to shine in a reduced role and help the Lakers win on all the margins of the game when James returns, then Ball may be less Kidd, and more point-guard Draymond Green, a guy who serves as a key cog in an offense with his playmaking while setting the tone defensively.
Ball isn’t quite there yet either, but he’s closer, and with Chandler’s help, maybe he can take another few steps forward by the end of the season.
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