[Photo: Kyusung Gong/Associated Press]
It is not easy for an NBA fan to become a Lonzo Ball supporter. Every time I considered it, his dad promptly ruined it for me. Lavar Ball, Big Baller Brand CEO, and father of the Ball brothers, has yet again put his eldest son in a tough position.
After Lonzo and the Lakers faced their second loss at home to the Pelicans, Lavar was quoted stating “Washington coming in here on Wednesday? They better beware…Because Lonzo ain’t losing again! Not in the same week!”
This was far from being one of his more problematic statements. But if you have watched the Washington Wizards play this season, in comparison to the Lakers, you could see where Ball’s comment could be considered a bit of a stretch.
To make things spicier, Wizards center Marcin Gortat responded with a tweet which stated that John Wall would “torture him [Ball] for 48 minutes”. Why anybody outside of the Ball family circle found this tweet controversial is beyond me. Wall pretty much tortures anybody that has to guard him.
However, because of the social media driven world we live in, the Ball vs. Wall controversy was birthed. Lonzo constantly has a target on his back because of his father’s actions. In spite of all this, he still has to go out there and play the game.
Coming into Wednesday night’s game, Ball averaged 13.3 points along with nine rebounds and eight assists per game. These numbers are a solid reflection of his skill set on the court. One thing we have not seen from Ball yet is his toughness. This is something four-time All-star Wall has a lot of.
At the beginning of the game, Ball played some solid defense against Wall. He forced two early turnovers by stripping the ball from Wall on aggressive drives to the basket. Wall was actually held to six points in the first half. In comparison, Ball did not make a field goal until the second half of the game.
Wall came out aggressive immediately in the third quarter. He got two early finishes at the rim, one being a left-handed dunk on Ball, that established his rhythm for the rest of the game. At the same time, Wizards two-guard Bradley Beal got hot as well, and Washington began to pull away with the lead. Wall had 10 points in the third quarter alone.
Although he could not hit a shot, Ball continued to rebound well and distribute the ball to his teammates as they rallied to come back in the fourth quarter. A last second assist to Julius Randle for a three followed by a game-tying layup by Brandon Ingram sent the game to overtime. Wall and Bradley Beal continued to assault the Lakers defense in the extra period.
The Lakers are a very young team, so they were not expected to go down to the wire with an established Eastern Conference power like the Wizards. But Ball and his teammates found a way to win the game by making unselfish and tough plays down to the very last second. The game ended fittingly with Lonzo Ball contesting an arid three-point attempt by Wall.
So what did we learn here? Both Gortat and Lavar Ball were right. The Lakers did not lose another one at home this week. It’s fair to say that Wall did torture Lonzo over the course of this game, even though he did not really look for his own shot until later on in the game. Ball finished with six points (2-11 FG), eight rebounds, and 10 assists. Wall posted 18 points and nine assists.
It’s safe to say that we probably won’t see the Baby Lakers win that many more close games against teams of this caliber in the future. However, I think we will see Ball get that monkey off of his back eventually so that he can play with a higher level of comfort on the floor.
It’s going to be a very long season for him because of the target on his back. He’s going to have plenty more players call him out, he’s going to lose some games, and he’s definitely going to receive a lot of criticism. But I don’t see a player with his level of talent letting outside distractions dictate his game on the court for too much longer.