Well, that didn’t last long. Rookie Lonzo Ball’s less than inspiring first game, and the noise that went along with it, evaporated Friday when he fell one assist shy of a triple double in the Lakers’ victory over the Suns. Ball received a social media lashing after being outplayed by the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, but what he’s discovering in the NBA is that the next game counts.
And lucky for him, the next game was the following night. What critics need to understand is Ball is just 19 and played his first game. Of course, if he didn’t have the hype partially generated by his father, he wouldn’t be under such a microscope.
"I think Lonzo's getting a bad [rap] for getting destroyed his first game," Lakers coach Luke Walton said before the game. "Personally, I thought he could have had a double-double with rebounds and assists [but] we didn't make any shots. I thought he was fine last night. It's a good learning experience for everybody."
On Friday night, Ball bounced back by flashing the kind of triple-double versatility that made the Lakers select him second overall in the draft. He displayed the kind of passing that dazzled at the Las Vegas Summer League and knocked down four treys, including a step-back 3-pointer.
When the Suns made a late charge and got within three with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left, Ball scored six of the next eight points for the Lakers in a minute and a half, making three shots with his left hand. He scored on a driving left-handed scoop shot in traffic, another left-handed drive and score over Tyson Chandler and then a driving left-handed layup. In between those baskets, he pushed the ball up court to Kyle Kuzma, who drove in for a layup.
Ball is the first teenager since LeBron James to have 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. And his 29 points are the most by a Laker in his first or second game of his career since at least 1963. Magic Johnson scored 26 in his debut.
"This happened before," Ball said of him getting off to slow starts and people labeling him after a poor game. "It happened in summer league. It's happened before in my career. So, I am used to it.
After his matchups with Beverly and Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe, Ball will go up against New Orleans' Jrue Holiday, Washington's John Wall, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and Utah's Ricky Rubio.