Lonzo Ball faces stiff test in Los Angeles Lakers' opener
NBA.com staff reports
* Tonight on TNT: Lakers vs. Clippers (10:30 ET)
The hype has followed Lonzo Ball since he signed to play one season at UCLA in 2016, to his pre-Draft workouts, to Draft night to, at last, tonight’s season opener. The Los Angeles Lakers’ prized rookie has much to prove to his fans and doubters and logging a big game against one of the NBA’s top defensive guards would only help his cause.
Bill Oram of the Orange County Register digs on the challenges Ball may face when he’s guarded by the LA Clippers’ defensive guru of a point guard, Patrick Beverley:
For Lonzo Ball, the matchups have never been like they will be starting on Thursday, when, with just 57 minutes of preseason experience under his belt, the point guard makes his long-awaited Lakers debut in the season opener against the Clippers.
“He has never played in this type of game before,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said, “where the guards and the players are this good and this strong, and he is going against grown men. A team full of them.”
That doesn’t mean Walton is worried.
“He will be fine,” he said. “I think he will rise to the challenge like he has his whole life.”
The first weeks of Ball’s rookie season will be full of tests both large and small. A debut matchup against Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley could easily be characterized as rookie hazing.
“I have been watching the NBA for a long time,” said Ball, 19. “He definitely picks up full court and plays hard. It is going to be a lot of fun.”
Every star needs a heel, however, and in the opener that will be Beverley. A first-team all-defensive guard last year in Houston, Beverley was part of the Clippers’ return in the Chris Paul trade.
“Pat Beverley hounding him all over the floor is going to be a great learning experience for him,” Walton said.
Of course, Lakers fans won’t be tuning in on Thursday because they want to see great learning experiences. They want to see Ball excel from the start of his career.
And if he doesn’t?
“You just learn from it,” he said. “It’s 82 games, you can’t dwell on one game or you’re going to have a bunch more bad games in a row. After it happens, learn from it and just move on.”