Every team in the NBA has yet to play their fifth game of this very young season, and already the chorus from the peanut gallery has become unbearable.
After his very first pro game against the Los Angeles Clippers, while being matched up with one of the league’s best and most rugged defenders in Patrick Beverley, the groundswell of ignorance was deafening as Lonzo Ball struggled through a forgettable performance where he made only one of his six shot attempts in 29 minutes.
The Lakers got smacked on opening night 108-92 as Blake Griffin initiated the post-Chris Paul era for the Clips with a dominant 29-point, 12-rebound showing. But the only thing some people, presumably those who dream of one day screaming on a televised sports debate show, were fixated on was Lonzo.
Blake Griffin scored 29 points and added 12 boards, DeAndre Jordan recorded a double-double, and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-92 from Staples Center.
“Lonzo Ball is overrated.”
“Lonzo Ball is a bust.”
“Lonzo Ball is slow, not athletic and an overhyped reality star whose father fooled everyone into believing that he was worth the #2 pick in the Draft.”
“Magic Johnson is a clown for wasting that high draft pick on Lonzo Ball when there was so much other talent available. He’s on the clock right now and will go down as a terrible executive.”
And that was merely the tip of the iceberg.
It was nauseating, especially for someone who loves, studies and understands the NBA game. I guess they didn’t really watch that first game. If they did watch it, they didn’t understand what they were seeing. Because despite the horrid shooting performance and being bullied by Beverley, Lonzo battled.
He grabbed nine rebounds, dished out four assists and looked like he belonged. He was simply hesitant with his shot, didn’t shoot it much and the rock wasn’t tickling the twine. But the game is not all about scoring the ball, it’s about contributing in other ways even when your shot has abandoned you and your survival seems ominous, like Jamal and Salim in Slumdog Millionaire when their mother died in the Bombay Riots.
It happens. But the sign of a real baller is how they respond to adversity. Ball clapped back at the wanna-be-Stephen A. Smith’s the next night with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against Phoenix in a 132-130 Laker win.
Lonzo Ball came up one assist shy of a triple double, scoring 29, dropping 9 assists and adding 11 rebounds in the Lakers 132-130 win over the Suns.
“Today I just had to do what I had to do to get the win. I had to shoot a few more shots. It doesn’t take me long to learn,” Ball said after the game. “It was my first time. Everybody is going to criticize me regardless of what I do, but the more I play, the more comfortable I get.”
Lonzo took over against the Suns down the stretch, scoring eight points in less than three minutes. His final bucket during that run was a floater that put the Lakers up 130-122 with 1:35 left in the game.
“He gets the ball down quick regardless of whether it’s scores or misses, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense as far as getting back,” said Suns center and NBA vet Tyson Chandler. “He has a great feel as a young player for the game.”
In LA’s next game against New Orleans and their formidable big man duo of Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, Ball once again struggled with his shot, making only three of his 13 attempts in the Lakers 119-112 loss. But he snagged eight rebounds and dished out 13 assists.
His shots weren’t falling, but his aggressiveness against a defense anchored by Davis, one of the best defenders in today’s game, was beyond impressive.
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Overall during this early stage of a long season, Lonzo’s numbers for a teenage point guard – not only playing the league’s toughest position, but starting – are beyond impressive with averages of 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
Tonight, his NBA point guard orientation and freshman education continues with a matchup against the preeminent defensive player at the position, the Washington Wizards’ exceptional John Wall, who led the league with 157 steals last season and had 49 blocked shots, more than any other floor general.
The Wizards are legit, a bonafied contender for the Eastern Conference crown. They’re looking for their first 4-0 start since Cheech and Chong was Up In Smoke back in 1978.
As is his penchant, Lonzo’s pops LaVar ill-advisedly continues his audacious foray into being a carnival barker and hype man for his son when it’s really not necessary at this point.
Washington coming in here Wednesday? They better beware, shouted LaVar. Because Lonzo aint losing again! Not in the same week!
Marcin Gortat says John Wall will torture Lonzo Ball for 48 minutes.
Wizards center Marcin Gortat had previously said that Wall will torture Ball for 48 minutes. Wall has kept it low-key for the most part, but when asked if he’d show any leniency in tonight’s game, he simply said, “Nah. No Mercy…Like, this is the league now. Its a different ballgame.
Hes gassing up his son, Wall said to his backcourt mate Bradley Beal. So hes got to back it up.
And after tonight’s game, if Ball struggles against perhaps the best two-way point guard in the league, we’ll hear more from the morons about the kid being a bust and an overhyped reality star who never deserved the accolades.
For people that know the game, it’s just another chapter in the NBA education of Lonzo Ball. Whether you know it or not, that kid got game. It’s a different game than most are used to seeing, but he’ll carve out his spot and get his props.
Any way you slice it, being bullied by Beverley and shown no mercy by Wall within the first four games of his NBA career is the best thing to awaken him to the realities of where he is. This ain’t AAU or UCLA. He’s running with the big dogs right now.
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Be a dummy if you want to, but Ball’s illmatic skills and top draft position didn’t come about because his father spoke it into existence. He is where he is because his game is delicious, vicious and nutritious. He’ll take his bumps early on. But he’ll be a better player down the road because of it.
As for the idiots, they’ll keep screaming about Lonzo being a bum. But that’s cool, because when it clicks and his mind and body fully understand the NBA game, they’ll thankfully get some convenient amnesia.
Lonzo Ball is being educated right now. No one has the answers to all the early tests. And with everyone gunning for him, it’s the best preparation that anyone could ask for.