Ball hears it from all sides

He is jeered by fans, en­cour­aged by Lak­ers team­mates as shoot­ing woes con­tinue.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ta­nia Gan­guli

WASH­ING­TON — There will be no magic salve for Lonzo Ball’s shoot­ing, just as there hasn’t been for hun­dreds of play­ers who came be­fore him. It will take time, it will take work and while he works on get­ting there, he will be hounded con­stantly about what is wrong and how he can fix it. And his team will keep em­brac­ing him with its sup­port.

On Thurs­day night af­ter the Lak­ers lost to the Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards 111-95, Ball was asked if he ever wishes he had room to grow, or if he knows he never will.

“I al­ready know; I live in re­al­ity,” Ball said, then he pursed his lips and nod­ded the way he does to close most an­swers.

In the 12th game of his NBA ca­reer, Ball neared a triple-dou­ble with 10 points, eight re­bounds and eight as­sists. He also made only three of 12 shots and was one for seven on three-point­ers. Fans at Cap­i­tal One Arena jeered and laughed when Ball missed shots, but af­ter the game his team­mates of­fered the kind of pa­tience and un­der­stand­ing he isn’t get­ting from the out­side.

“Ev­ery time you turn on

any sports show, all they talk about is his shot,” Lak­ers coach Luke Wal­ton said. “He’s al­ready play­ing for the Lak­ers so he’s got a lot more pres­sure on him than any­one has in a long time that has come out in col­lege.

“I am thrilled he is on our team and he is go­ing to start mak­ing those shots. It is just a mat­ter of time. But he makes our team so much bet­ter when he is on the floor. Even when that shot is not go­ing in, the way he can push the ball, the way he can make plays on the de­fen­sive end, the way he comes in and re­bounds from a guard po­si­tion is in­cred­i­ble. Is it ex­tra pres­sure? One hun­dred per­cent. He is a rookie, as you put it, dis­sected by ev­ery­body and that is what it is and that prob­a­bly will not change.

“So we will keep work­ing with him and en­cour­age him to make plays and get bet­ter and he will.”

In Novem­ber, Ball has made 13 of 57 shots. The month be­gan with an 0-for-2 per­for­mance against the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers that led Wal­ton to ask for more ag­gres­sion from the point guard. Then he made three of 15 shots against the Brook­lyn Nets, three of 13 against the Mem­phis Griz­zlies and four of 15 against the Bos­ton Celtics.

Af­ter the Lak­ers lost to the Celtics, Ball re­vealed that Wal­ton and Magic John­son, the Lak­ers pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions, had talked with him about cor­rect­ing his foot­work to im­prove his bal­ance.

While the Lak­ers have said they won’t tinker with his un­ortho­dox shoot­ing mo­tion, the bal­ance is part of what Ball works on with as­sis­tant coaches Miles Si­mon and Brian Shaw.

On Thurs­day, the Lak­ers were fac­ing a hun­gry team that lost to them in over­time last month.

In the first quar­ter, they gave up 37 points to the Wiz­ards, who made 60% of their shots. But they kept pace largely be­cause of their own strong shoot­ing. Af­ter one quar­ter the Lak­ers trailed by three.

The Wiz­ards outscored the Lak­ers by 10 in the sec­ond quar­ter and led by as many as 16 points.

The Wiz­ards fin­ished with three play­ers scor­ing 20 or more points — Otto Porter Jr., Bradley Beal and John Wall. They made 51.8% of their shots and scored 27 points off 19 turnovers.

The Lak­ers’ lead­ing scor­ers were Brook Lopez and Jor­dan Clarkson, who each scored 15 points.

The Lak­ers, mean­while, made only 36% of their shots and three of 23 three-point­ers.

Ball wasn’t the only player who strug­gled shoot­ing, but Wiz­ards fans, like most road fans do, keyed on his per­for­mance. Af­ter a missed free throw that bounced off the front of the rim, the crowd jeered loudly for his next two free throws, louder than they had for the first. Af­ter an air-balled three-pointer, many in the crowd laughed.

“Prob­a­bly in his head a lit­tle bit when the crowd gets at him a lit­tle bit,” Lak­ers sec­ond-year for­ward Bran­don In­gram said. “Of course he’s a rookie so he’s go­ing to make mis­takes. He needs to keep fight­ing and keep fight­ing. All he can do is keep his head up and keep try­ing to play the right way.”

Said third-year for­ward Julius Ran­dle: “Can’t make ’em if you don’t take ’em. You gotta shoot. He’s proven that he’ll make shots. Even­tu­ally the tide will turn. He works his butt off. … You gotta shoot ’em. Can’t be hes­i­tant.”

The at­ten­tion and pres­sure is greater now than it was when Ball was in col­lege, even as an NBA prospect at UCLA. But he knows he’ll have to find his own way to grow through that.

“Try to stay bal­anced, go out there and help my team win,” Ball said. “Ev­ery­body fo­cuses on me, spot­light’s been on me for a while now. … I re­ally don’t even care, to be hon­est. I’ve got to just keep shoot­ing and just im­prove with ev­ery game.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.