The Los Angeles Lakers desperately need Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to consistently be the driving force whenever LeBron James is unavailable — whether that be due to injury or for merely being off the court during a game. Luke Walton recognized this and lit a fire under the two former second overall picks with possibly his most public criticism of them yet, and they feel they lived up to his requests.
The key, now, is whether they can maintain this for longer than a game or two. At the very least, Ball and Ingram recognizing what Walton and the Lakers needed from them and acting on it is a start.
In typical Lonzo Ball fashion, the point guard used maximum conversational efficiency in discussing why he and Ingram responded to their coach’s prodding (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“We’re competitors, so obviously if your head coach expects more of you, you’ve got to bring it to the table, and I thought we did that pretty good tonight.”
When asked about perhaps changing his game or stepping up for whatever it was Walton wanted, Ingram seemed to want to keep things in house, but did allude to how Walton is always pushing him to believe in himself and reach his potential.
Really, both Ingram and Ball are men of few words, so fortunately Kyle Kuzma was around to give his perspective.
”Big time response (from Ingram and Lonzo). Basketball and life is always about how you respond to negative things or bad outings and they did an excellent job, not only just Brandon and Zo, but Josh Hart came in, he had a bad game in Minnesota and then he was probably key to the game for us. All three of those guys really helped us and responded well.”
Both Ball and Ingram are talented enough to make the impact they did against the Dallas Mavericks more consistently than they do. It’s what makes it so frustrating when they don’t live up to that expectation. As unfair as it is to expect a couple 21-year-olds to carry a franchise, that’s just how professional sports kind of go.
Fortunately for both, LeBron James is around to spell them more often than not, but as has been pointed out more often than I can count, if the Lakers are to reach their full potential in the LeBron era, the young core will have to have reached their own ceilings.
Walton was absolutely right to call out Ingram and Ball for their lackluster efforts against the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves. They responded against Dallas and the Lakers won a crucial game. Those two things are thoroughly related, and the Lakers need them to happen more often.