Lonzo Ball isn't going to the bench, and he's sure as heck not going to the G-League.
"He's our starting point guard," Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton almost struggled at the thought of being asked about Ball possible going to the bench to ease the immense pressure the rookie has been under. "There're no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench."
Walton repeated, almost laughing off the thought, "He's our starting point guard."
As point guards have a habit of "yoyo-ing up and down," Ball's young career has already hit historic highs and bounced off the hardest of wood floors. Ball ended the past week by becoming the youngest NBA player to ever record a trouble-double. Less than a week later, a dud in a nationally televised performance had suggestions floating about sending the kid to the G-League or stripping his starting spot.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers' rookie point guard missed eight of his nine shots and sat the entire fourth quarter as his team fell short in a close game and lost 115-109 to another promising young team in the rebuilding process, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Due in part to Ball's forgettable night but more so to do special performances by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers' process has seemingly advanced past the Lakers' rebuild. While Embiid was posting pictures of Ball stumbling, though, the former UCLA Bruin was already apparently aggressively working on his game.
When Walton turned up at the facility for practice on Thursday, Ball had already arrived early. The coach soon learned that the no. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had visited the Lakers' facility to shoot the lights out after Wednesday's game and then came back early on Thursday to shoot the lights back on. Evidently, Ball didn't sleep well following the poor outing, and the experience may have changed him.
"His energy seemed a little, not the same playful, joyful Lonzo that he normally is," Walton said on Thursday. "But that could be a good thing, that he's frustrated or mad a little bit."
If fans were disappointed by Ball's performance, his actions suggest no one cared more than the 20-year-old. That, however, does not mean that Ball's confidence is shaken or should be shaken according to his coach.
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"I'm not worried about his confidence, no," Walton answered. "He's a confident young man, as he should be. He's very good at the game of basketball. What he's already accomplished in these games, getting a triple-double, average rebounding the way he is against these bigs in this league and the assists he's putting up, that's really impressive for a 20-year-old point guard to do."
Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma, who is seemingly living an inverse existence of entering the league with no expectations and looking like one of the five best players in the draft, shared his support for Ball following the tough night.
"The media and everybody in the county want him to be a Hall-of-Famer right now, or wants to be an All-Star right now, but he's still a rookie," Kuzma stood up for the fellow member of the Class of 2017. "It's tough to play at this level for anybody. There are 10-year vets that play way worse than he does, and nobody talks about it."
When posed with a question inquiring about the impact of the extra pressure that Ball's family publicly welcomed and sought, Kuzma offered an interesting response:
"Could you want through his shoes? Everybody thinks it's easy, but nobody can walk through his shoes, unless you ask him. It's tough. He's in a tough situation, but he's level headed. He even keel, comes in and works every day, so I'm not worried."
When Ball struggled on Wednesday, Jordan Clarkson finished the game for the Lakers. On Thursday, Clarkson offered the soberest of reminders that Ball is only a month into his first NBA season. In fact, the Lakers played their season opener on Oct. 19, so Friday's Nov. 17 game against Phoenix comes less than one month since the rookie played his first NBA game.
Then, Clarkson offered his unique veteran-status wisdom: "You've got to give him some time."