That he did. Lonzo struggled the whole night in his first NBA game, finishing with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting. LaVar Ball, in typical, expected LaVar fashion, hopped to his son’s defense, asking, “Patrick who?” and making it clear that Lonzo will get his feet under him soon.
Lonzo did bounce back against a lackluster Phoenix Suns team, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Quite the turnaround.
Lonzo is clearly a talented player, and he will be great in this league if he continues to perform at a high level like that. His dad’s trash talk, as Washington Wizards point guard John Wall puts it, isn’t helping anything, though.
“I think his dad put him in a situation where guys are going to target him,” said Wall. “Lonzo is one of those kids that is very talented. He’s been a good player for years; he just don’t say much. I think his dad does all the talking for him.”
Lonzo has always been a quiet player, the polar opposite of his father. However, even if Lonzo isn’t the one talking smack, guys are still going to come after him for the things being said.
“He’s a great kid from what I’ve seen on the outside looking in,” continued Wall. “A lot of people in this league are going to take it personally. It’s not the son’s fault. He went back and had a better game [versus the Suns]. That’s all he’s gotta do is go out there and play. He’s not gonna do any talking anyways. If he gets killed or don’t get killed or kiss somebody, he’s not going to be the guy talking.”
The last thing any rookie in any professional sport needs is a target on their chest. As if adapting to playing basketball at the highest level wasn’t hard enough on its own.
Lonzo struggled again Sunday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, as he clearly wasn’t ready to play against the twin big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Ball finished with just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting with five turnovers. While Lakers head coach Luke Walton was happy with Ball’s aggressive play, it will take time for him to learn that if you drive on Davis and Cousins, you can expect the ball to get blocked back into your face.
“I liked Lonzo’s aggression tonight,” said Walton. “He just didn’t make shots…the more he does it, the more comfortable he will get and the more he will feel the size and strength of what it is like in the NBA, and he will learn how to take advantage of that. Those two bigs he was trying to penetrate today, those are monsters out there. You are not used to playing guys like that, but I thought it was great for him to go in there and challenge them.”
Ball is clearly cut out for the league. His 13 assists and eight rebounds against the Pelicans show that he is a versatile player, even when his shots aren’t falling. Nonetheless, Ball (and his father) wants to be a superstar. He wants to compete for a slot in the All-Star Game this year. He doesn’t want to be another role player; he wants to be the leader of one of the most storied franchises in the league. In order to do that, he’ll need to get his feet wet, which will be even more difficult now that his dad has thrown him into the deep end.