The first two years of the Lonzo Ball era in Los Angeles can only be described as unlucky — for both Ball and the Lakers.
As soon as Ball looked like he was starting to figure it out, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Since the Lakers lost Ball on Jan. 19, they have gone 6-15, which is the third-worst record in the NBA since then. When Ball went down, their chances of making the playoffs did as well.
However, the level of comfort Ball played with before his injury is a promising sign for the Lakers going forward. In fact, Ball told Shams Charania of The Athletic that he now knows what he needs to do in order to help his team win:
“I definitely found my way and found what I was supposed to do for this team,” Ball said. “Lead the team the best way that I could. I learned to just go out there and play freely.”
Playing “freely” is going to be the key to Ball unlocking his potential, whether it’s with the Lakers or another team.
He’s already an elite playmaker and one of the better defenders in the league at the point guard position, but his best skills go to waste when he’s playing stiffly or timidly like he was earlier in the season. When he’s attacking the basket and shooting the ball with confidence, Ball is arguably the most exciting player on the Lakers’ roster not named LeBron James.
Luckily, for the first time in his young career, he’ll have a full offseason to work on his game, and coincidentally build confidence for what will be a make-or-break junior season for him. If what Lakers fans saw before the All-Star break is a sign of things to come for Ball, he should be just fine.