LOS ANGELES — All those seasons playing youth basketball on teams coached by his father, four years at Chino Hills High, one at UCLA, and Lonzo Ball could not remember ever losing this many games in a row.
After the Lakers’ latest defeat Sunday against Houston, he sighed and fluttered his lips and said, “Five? Probably not five, no. I don’t think anybody likes losing, so we’ve got to turn it around as fast as possible.”
The rookie might not yet recognize what a challenge that could be. The Lakers (8-15) are entering the most intimidating portion of their schedule, with six of their next seven games on the road.
Every team they face this month was either a playoff team last spring or is positioned to be one this season. Before December is over, the Lakers will face Houston two more times, Golden State twice and the Cleveland Cavaliers once.
“Confidence can’t dwindle,” Ball said. “If it does now we’re going to have a very long season.”
Things are playing out similarly to a year ago. Last season, the Lakers lost 15 out of 17 games starting at the beginning of December.
“We had a big-time losing streak last December,” Coach Luke Walton said, “and we had some injuries. Hopefully we win some of these games this time.”
The losing seems to have taken its toll in the locker room, with frustration palpable among players who have endured multiple years of lopsided outcomes. This year, though still a season of transition, had begun to feel different.
Players have truly embraced the chase for a playoff berth. As unlikely as that seemed before the season, it’s even less so now, with the Lakers seven games under .500 and facing a gauntlet.
The losses might be taking a toll on his players, but Walton sits back and sees things a little differently.
“It’s, in a weird way, a little easier this year than it was last year,” the second-year coach said.
He has stressed from the beginning of the season that wins and losses would not determine the measure of his team’s success.
“This team is continuing to grow and continuing to get better and continuing to do the things that, in my opinion, will eventually allow us to win consistently,” Walton said.
A year ago, that perspective was harder to find, with the Lakers caught in a tug-o-war of dueling interests, winning vs. development.
Now the whole of the organization is committed to developing players like Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. So Walton preaches to his players the…