Lak­ers rookie Ball a vic­tim of hyper­bole

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JEFF ZILL­GITT

Hyper­bole and Los An­ge­les Lak­ers rookie guard Lonzo Ball are linked.

With each im­pres­sive pass, each missed open shot and each turnover, the opin­ions of Ball’s game will os­cil­late from one ex­treme to the op­po­site.

Some days he is a bust. Oth­ers, he’s the sec­ond com­ing of Ja­son Kidd.

Right now, he’s nei­ther. But the skill and tools are present, leav­ing him a bet­ter chance to be more like lat­ter.

One day, his dad, LaVar, said his son played his worst game ever. The next day, he told ESPN that his son will be the great­est guard un­der the guid­ance of Lak­ers pres­i­dent Magic John­son. Lat­est NBA cov­er­age: Some­times it hap­pens in a 24hour pe­riod, as was the case over the week­end. On Fri­day in his Sum­mer League de­but, Ball had five points on 2-for-15 shoot­ing in a loss to the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers.

Ball, the No. 2 over­all pick in the June draft, promised he would be bet­ter, and he was on Satur­day with a triple-dou­ble in a loss against the Bos­ton Celtics: 11 points, 11 re­bounds and 11 as­sists.

“It (the game) slowed down a lot,” Ball said. “It’s only our sec­ond game, so things are start­ing to come. But it’s a lot bet­ter than (Fri­day).”

The Ball Phe­nom­e­non is real, that’s for sure. In the first two days of the NBA’s pop­u­lar Las Vegas Sum­mer League, fans packed Thomas & Mack Cen­ter. A record 17,500 tick­ets were sold for Satur­day’s ses­sion that in­cluded the Lak­ers-Celtics game.

Ball is the big at­trac­tion along with other top rook­ies Markelle Fultz (No. 1 pick) of the Philadel­phia 76ers, Jayson Ta­tum (No. 3 pick) of the Celtics, Josh Jack­son (No. 4 pick) of the Phoenix Suns and De’Aaron Fox (No. 5 pick) of the Sacra­mento Kings.

Vegas’ prox­im­ity to Los An­ge­les and the hope, hype and ex­pec­ta­tions sur­round­ing Ball drew a full arena for the 19-year-old’s first two games.

John­son, gen­eral man­ager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Wal­ton sat court­side. So did boxer Floyd May­weather.

Ev­ery­one wanted a glimpse of Ball’s game, and one must sift through the hyper­bole to find the sub­stance.

Ball, who wore his Big Baller Brand shoes in both games, is a work-in-progress, which is what he should be as he makes the jump from col­lege bas­ket­ball to the NBA. To be­come a con­sis­tent scorer in the league, he needs to make jump shots, and his three-pointer needs work.

Through two games, he is 2for-16 on threes. He’s also not the first rookie to strug­gle from the NBA’s longer three-point line. Kidd, a fu­ture Hall of Famer, was not a great three-point shooter early in his ca­reer and de­vel­oped into a re­li­able long-range shooter.

“My shot’s off. But ev­ery­body that knows me knows I’m go­ing to keep shoot­ing,” Ball said. “My con­fi­dence is there. I just have to hit them.”

The Lak­ers didn’t draft him for his shoot­ing, at least not right away. With his ball-han­dling and speed, he can get into the lane for layups. He is a pass-first point guard, and his team­mates ap­pre­ci­ate that.

“It’s def­i­nitely con­ta­gious,” Ball said of his pass­ing. “My team­mates are telling me I’m too un­selfish. I gave up a lot of layups and dunks. But when I make the ex­tra pass, ev­ery­one else does, too.”

The Lak­ers love his savvy and lead­er­ship, his court vi­sion and will­ing­ness to pass. Ball has a knack for push­ing the ball with long passes be­fore the de­fence has a chance to set.

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