Lonzo Ball had himself a game Tuesday night, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a win with a ridiculous line. Ball poured in five points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals, one block and just one turnover. It was the latest evidence that the young point guard is figuring this whole NBA thing out, and that the Lakers don’t have a Lonzo Ball problem, they have a LaVar Ball problem.
After LaVar’s latest outburst — in which he claimed Lakers coach Luke Walton had lost the team — there were calls across the sports media landscape for Los Angeles to consider trading Lonzo. That’s a ridiculous proposition, because the 20-year-old rookie isn’t the issue, his father is.
By all accounts, Lonzo’s teammates like him and thoroughly enjoy playing with him. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the Lakers are far better when he’s on the floor. His impact doesn’t always translate to the box score, but it’s clear Los Angeles moves the ball better and executes better on both ends of the floor when Ball is in the lineup.
The Lakers love Ball, they just wish his father would shut up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.
Ball is currently second among rookies in assists (7.1) and third in rebounds (7.1), while also limiting his turnovers per game (an excellent 2.7). His assist-to-turnover rate (2.6) ranks tops among rookies and is 22nd leaguewide. Meanwhile, Ball’s atrocious shooting has actually been improving. He had his best 3-point shooting month in December (37.7 percent), and it was also his best month from the field (42.2 percent). Neither of those numbers will blow anyone’s skirt up, but there has been improvement.
Oh, and then there’s this: when Ball was forced to miss six games with a shoulder injury, the Lakers went 0-6 and looked awful. They clearly need him on the floor.
Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and those in the Lakers front office need to realize that the elder Ball isn’t going to change. It might be time for Lonzo to step up, show some maturity and stick up for his coach, teammates and organization by distancing himself from his father’s comments.
I don’t envy Lonzo’s situation. Not only does he have a father/son relationship to think of, but LaVar has managed every aspect of his basketball playing career and has gotten him exactly where he said he would: as the starting point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers. That said, there needs to be some kind of line there, where Lonzo tells his dad he isn’t helping things anymore.
The Lakers want Lonzo Ball around. They want him to develop and become the centerpiece of the next championship run in LA. Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma give the Lakers one of the best young trios in the NBA. When you throw in guys like Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson you have a group of nine talented players all 25 and younger. Some of those guys likely won’t be around for the next steps of the rebuild, but the Lakers have done an excellent job assembling young pieces.
Ball has shown he can be the conductor of that orchestra, even if he isn’t scoring a ton of points. The young Lakers have guys who can put the ball in the basket, it’s all the other things they’ve been missing. The media needs to quit with the trade rumors because that’s simply not happening. Ball makes everyone else better, he’s not going anywhere.
With that said, at some point, Lonzo is going to need to step up and get his dad to back off. He’ll need to show he’s mature and is truly ready to be his own man.