The Los Angeles Lakers have a bit of a creative problem. Without the team’s two best ballhandlers (LeBron James, Rajon Rondo), they need to rely on somewhat reluctant or incapable creators to carry the load. On that front, Luke Walton says they’ll need more out of Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
Both Ball and Ingram have shown flashes from time to time of being able to carry creative responsibilities, but flashes put you in position to win. To actually and consistently get victories, you need more.
“We want both of them (to initiate). They’re both running point for us at different parts of the game, but we need both of them to be aggressive,” Walton said to reporters before the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
“We need both of them playmaking for others and looking to score themselves,” Walton continued. “The game will dictate at times who has it, but for us to have success, we need both of them to be good.”
For stretches of the game that followed these quotes, both Ball and Ingram did enough to keep the Lakers in the contest, despite poor scoring performances. Then the fourth quarter happened.
Ingram played all 12 minutes of the final quarter and went 1/7 for 2 points and 1 assist, with 2 turnovers. Lonzo was so ineffective in the five minutes he played (1 point, no field goals attempted, no assists, rebounds, steals or blocked shots) that Walton benched him. The Lakers were outscored by 11 points in the fourth.
Now look, it’s worth mentioning how tired both guys might have been. Walton had to go with an insanely short rotation because of injuries to basically half of his main contributors. This excuse would seem especially relevant to Ingram, as he had to play the entire fourth. Ball’s issue was the aggressiveness mentioned above.
Given what the Lakers need from Ball (and especially given how dire the injury situation has become), he simply cannot go for stretches of floating like that. Walton was right to bench him, even if it was for Lance Stephenson.
While James is out, the Lakers need Ingram and Ball to show more than flashes. Hell, even when James and Rondo come back, if the Lakers want to reach their ceiling, it will be because Ingram and Ball helped support James. If they don’t, and the Lakers turn into just another organization James has to carry, you can pretty much guarantee Ball and Ingram will find their way to another city in exchange for guys who can help James win now.