Following up on his second career triple-double on Sunday, Lonzo Ball returns to Staples Center on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are bad.
Chicago has started the season with only three wins in 14 games, including only one win in eight road games. However, rookie Lauri Markkanen leads Tuesday's visitors in points, 15.6, and rebounds, 8.0. The 7-footer is averaging 7.0 attempts per game from beyond the three-point line, and the 20-year-old is shooting a team-best 36.7 percent from distance.
"He's really good," Lakers coach Luke Walton, who attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate, said about Markkanen on Tuesday morning. "One, he's a really intelligent player because he went to (the University of Arizona), so he makes good decisions. But it’s impressive for a rookie to be able to put up numbers that he’s putting up right now and to shoot the NBA three normally takes a little bit of time to get used to, and he's shooting that thing pretty well and consistent right now."
Walton added, "He's going to be a handful for us tonight."
While Markkanen represents the new brand of big man of the NBA, Bulls starting center Robin Lopez still sits in the paint. Lakers center Brook Lopez, who has transformed into a three-point shooting center over the past couple years, is due to reunite with his twin brother on Tuesday night at Staples Center, which always makes for interesting drama.
In addition, the Bulls also feature former Laker David Nwaba, who earned his fairytale call up to the Lakers and the NBA at the tail-end of the 2016-17 season. Nwaba, who is an LA-native, has not featured for the Bulls' past six games and has been sidelined with lingering ankle soreness.
At the moment, the Bulls are starting third-year point guard Jerian Grant alongside Justin Holiday in the backcourt, with Denzel Valentine, Markkanen and Robin Lopez in the front court. Second-year point guard Kris Dunn, though, has claimed the majority of the point guard minutes in each of the Bulls' previous two games despite not starting.
For the Lakers, Tuesday night should be a victory over a team that is head deep in the rebuilding process after trading away Jimmy Butler to Minnesota over the summer. With a victory over the Bulls, the Lakers can improve to 8-10 on the season, which would be good enough for the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference with over one-fifth of the 2017-18 season complete.
Like most rookies, Ball has had an up and down start to his NBA career, but the former UCLA Bruin has already started re-writing history books becoming the youngest player to record a triple-double and the youngest player to record multiple triple-doubles in the NBA. Considering the opposition, Ball recording his third career triple-double on Tuesday would not be shocking. It would still be impressive, though.
Along with Ball, rookie Kyle Kuzma has gained a following and claimed cult status in the team's fan base and even on a national level. At 16.5 points per game, Kuzma leads the team in scoring, and the 21-year-old has recorded four double-doubles in nine games since moving into the starting-five due to a Larry Nance Jr. hand injury.
For the month of November, Kuzma is averaging 18.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Nance, though, is due to return sooner rather than later, as Walton shared that the injured forward returning on Monday against the LA Clippers sounded "reasonable." Whether Nance's return pushes Kuzma back to the bench remains to be seen, but the rookie has done more than adequately during his time in the starting lineup.
Along with Ball and Kuzma, forward Julius Randle continues to make the most of his limited minutes on the court. For the month of November, Randle is averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in only 21.9 minutes on the court. Against Denver, Randle got extra run and played a season-high 32 minutes on the court, which helped the former University of Kentucky Wildcat to a new season high of 24 points, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.
On Tuesday night, Randle, Kuzma and Ball should again play vital roles for the Lakers, as they look to get their eigth win of the 2017-18 season and move up in the standings. The Lakers and Bulls tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.