“Let him play the whole fourth quarter and bet you’ll always win. He’ll get into a better flow,” LaVar Ball told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, in a story published Monday. “The in and out, sitting out six to 10 minutes? He’s not going to take no shots because he’s not in the flow. He don’t want to hurt the team by shooting.”
Ball was referring to his son’s struggles to make shots, which was a concern coming into the NBA because of his unorthodox form. Following Sunday’s 107-102 Lakers win over the Grizzlies, in which Lonzo Ball hit 3 of 13 shots, including just one of eight three-point attempts, his field goal percentage fell to an unsightly .299, .234 from beyond the arc.
In a recent game against the Trail Blazers, Ball went scoreless, taking just two shots in more than 28 minutes although he contributed four assists, a steal and two blocks and finished plus-10 in plus/minus. As the Lakers have jumped out to a surprising 5-5 start, Ball has gotten praise for his passing, defense and overall leadership, mitigating some of the worries over his shooting woes.
“He’s doing everything else. That’s not a concern of ours,” Lakers center Brook Lopez told Pincus. “Just the way he facilitates, he brings everyone up to a whole ‘nother level. He instigates the break, he instigates our offense. It’s irreplaceable.”
To LaVar Ball, ever confident in his oldest child, Lonzo just needs to keep firing away. “You’ve got to shoot the ball,” the father said. “You’re not going to make it if you don’t take it.”
The latter assertion is indisputable, but it would be fair to question the wisdom of suggesting that Lonzo play every fourth-quarter minute. No NBA player, not even the seemingly indestructible LeBron James, does that except under dire circumstances, and as it is, Ball’s average of 33.0 minutes per game is second only to the 76ers’ Ben Simmons among rookies (and Simmons is actually in his second NBA season, having sat out the 2016-17 campaign with a foot injury).
Of course, making eye-opening comments, however questionable, has long been LaVar Ball’s stock in trade, and he’s not going to stop now just because his dream of seeing his boy in the uniform of his favorite team has been realized. Ball also recently claimed that Lonzo “can be bigger than Kobe [Bryant],” because of “social media.”
That may be, but Lonzo Ball will need to hit at least a few clutch shots — not to mention lead the Lakers to a few championships — before he can begin to approach Bryant’s immense stature. Oh, and social media also provides platforms for less-than-favorable analysis such as this:
Lakers Coach Luke Walton may have been tossed under the bus just a bit by LaVar Ball, but for what it’s worth, he agrees that it’s important for Lonzo not to get gun-shy. “He still positively affects our game just by being on the court,” Walton told Pincus, “but to be great — to be the player he’s going to be — he needs to shoot.”
Of course, LaVar Ball has rarely been afraid to take a shot, either at a basket or at someone who has accomplished far more than him in basketball. Given that the Lakers, who haven’t won more than 27 games since 2013, are widely expected to cool off after what has been, for them, a hot start, it will be interesting to see how many other suggestions Ball has to offer about his best his son should be deployed.
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