Lonzo Ball made his much-anticipated NBA debut Thursday night and, well, it wasn’t exactly thrilling. The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 108-92, in a game that showed how far the Purple and Gold have left to go. But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen and we all knew Ball and Co. were going to need time. We should give it to them.
This was always going to be a process and — to paraphrase Sam Hinkie’s mantra — observers should trust it. It will be a long haul to get the Lake Show back into contention, especially in the Western Conference, but there is enough talent in the pipeline for something exciting to develop.
Here are some numbers for you stat nerds out there: Ball is 19 years old, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant are 20, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Josh Hart are 22, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who didn’t play Thursday night) and Larry Nance Jr. are 24, and Jordan Clarkson is 25. That is an insanely young roster and some of those guys won’t even crack the rotation for a while. Yes, Brook Lopez (29) will almost surely start all season, while Corey Brewer (31), luol deng (32) and Andrew Bogut (32) will at least get minutes for now, but make no mistake, the Lakers are all about the future.
After Ball’s disappointing first Summer League game, some wrote him off as a complete disappointment who was all hype and would go bust. He wound up winning the MVP. The biggest questions facing Ball in the NBA were his jump shot (which is still a major issue) and his commitment to defense. So far he has seemed willing on the defensive end, and the return of Caldwell-Pope from suspension should help Ball tremendously.
On draft night when Kuzma was picked, many responded with “who?” All he’s done since is look like the missing length and versatility on the wing the Lakers have been needed since Lamar Odom’s departure.
Ingram has stretches where he looks like a star and others where he looks lost. But, again, he’s 20 and is still putting on weight and learning to deal with the physicality of the NBA game.
All of these guys need time to develop, learn to play together and find their way in professional basketball and it’s not going to happen overnight.
Ball’s debut saw him score just three points, while pulling in nine rebounds, dishing out four assists and adding one steal and one block to his line. He also had just two turnovers in 29 minutes. The scoring will come, as will the assists. His biggest job now is to get his teammates involved in the offense earlier than he did Thursday night.
Ingram (3-of-15 from the field) finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, but must become a more efficient player offensively. With his length, he should be able to get to the rim and at least get fouled regularly. The key will be finishing through contact, something he hasn’t done so far.
Yes, Thursday night was frustrating for Lakers fans who have been waiting years for a breakthrough. But things were never going to change quickly. When you build something, you start from the bottom, lay a foundation and work your way up. The foundation has been laid over the past few years. Now it’s time too build upwards and develop.
It’s going to take time, but the payoff should be worth it.