Lonzo Ball is now a New Orleans Pelican with a fascinating season ahead of him alongside Zion Williamson and his two other former-Lakers teammates, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Ball sat down for an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic and looked back on his time in Los Angeles, and was brutally honest about what he accomplished (or failed to accomplish) during those two years.
They started by talking about the amount of pressure the city and the organization put on him, and Ball quickly pushed back against whether it was all too much:
“Nah, nah, that wasn’t too much pressure,” Ball told The Athletic. “That’s what I was supposed to do. No. 2 pick, you’re supposed to do a job — you’re supposed to turn the franchise around. And I don’t think I did it to the best of my abilities. I didn’t live up to that standard. Now I’m here and I’m blessed to be here.
“These are two totally different situations. It didn’t go the way we wanted to the first year in L.A., then LeBron (James) came, all the injuries happened and that really messed up the second year. Here, we have Zion, Jrue (Holiday), JJ (Redick), D. Fav (Derrick Favors), all the guys that came with me in B.I. and J. Hart, so we have a lot of guys that can play. I’m trying to do my part.”
Interestingly enough, in a way, Ball is kind of acknowledging the shift in expectations once James showed up. He went so far as to outright say that playing alongside James was difficult at first because of the way he looked up to him growing up later in the interview. So while Ball says that the expectations weren’t too high initially, it seems altogether possible he wasn’t ready for them to continue to increase as much as they did his second season.
When Ball talks about his new teammates and this different situation, he could be referring to a more natural level of expectations that is more realistic given the career he’s had to this point and the general age of the guys he’s going to be playing with. Of course that’s something he’s really looking forward to, compared to the insanity that was last season.
Now, back to the pressure of being a No. 2 overall pick. By Ball’s standards (and by most, to be honest — though the blame is shared here), neither he, D’Angelo Russell or Ingram came close to living up to what he seems to expectation of players taken that high in the draft. I’d argue, however, that such expectations are unrealistic and that it would probably be smart to reconsider those expectations a little sooner than we usually do.
For one thing, all drafts aren’t equal. Secondly, it isn’t like players can control where they’re drafted. It probably would’ve served Ingram to be drafted a little later than he was given how young and underdeveloped he was physically. Yet the Lakers still expected him to fulfill a role he wasn’t ready for nonetheless and didn’t do nearly enough to steer him away from the bad habits he accrued in that role.
Magic Johnson infamously told Ball he expected to see his jersey alongside his one day. Lonzo didn’t ask for that. That was purely a result of where Ball was drafted and was a mistake at that time. Remember, in order to have your jersey retired by the Lakers, you have to be a Hall of Famer. There are plenty of perfectly fine former No. 2 overall picks who don’t have busts in Springfield, MA.
I’m obviously no one to disagree with Ball, here, but there quite obviously was too much pressure placed on him both by his dad, the organization and the fans. Then, once James showed up, that was raised to level 11. Of course that didn’t end well.
Ball has enjoyed a fun and exciting preseason thus far. This change of scenery was obviously good for him, and some of what he spoke about to Charania shows exactly why that is the case.