LAS VEGAS — 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.
Sometimes it happens in a 24-hour 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 2-for-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. He has a knack for pushing the ball with long passes before the defense has a chance to set.
“He did that in college in games where he didn’t score in double figures but completely dominated the game with his rebounding, his defense and his passing,” Lakers summer coach Jud Buechler said. “So I’m not surprised that even though he didn't have a big scoring night, his fingerprints were all over the stat sheet.”
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