EL SEGUNDO — The first two days of Lonzo Ball’s career consisted of defensive drills. And running. And some skeleton offensive work. But the pinpoint passing and speed that have made his arrival in the NBA a global curiosity had largely been suppressed.
After the Lakers scrimmaged for the first time Wednesday night, Ball’s teammates only had more good things to say about the hyped rookie.
“If you’ve been watching him,” Corey Brewer said Thursday, “you kind of know what he can do. It’s just him. He’s really good, and he’s poised, he’s under control and he plays the right way.”
Coach Luke Walton called the scrimmage “gross” and “sloppy” and “a gift to the players,” and certainly didn’t put much weight on the results of the first five-on-five of the fall. However, for a player as scrutinized as Ball, it seemed significant that his team – which included Brewer, Kyle Kuzma, Thomas Bryant and Vander Blue – went undefeated in its three games.
“My team won,” Ball said, “so I had a good time.”
If only he can keep that going. The Lakers open their preseason Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Anaheim.
“It is kind of the start of everything again,” Ball said. “The first time we are all together out there competing against somebody else.”
Even in a casual scrimmage, Walton found himself marveling at his point guard. The Lakers coach is preaching speed on every possession, a request that seems to only enhance Ball’s natural talent.
“We are asking everyone to play fast, fast, fast and he is out there just making simple passes,” Walton said. “And when guys are open ahead, he is putting it on their hands.”
Ball has plied his trade behind closed doors essentially since the Las Vegas Summer League, where he was named Most Valuable Player – en route to a Lakers tournament victory – and tallied several highlight-reel assists.
“Zo plays a great pace,” Julius Randle said. “His vision is obviously second to none, and his understanding of the game. So, he looked amazing.”
Last season, the Lakers ranked sixth in pace in the NBA and with Ball running the show they believe they can play even faster. Thus the early emphasis on defense.
“Defense starts the (fast) break,” Brewer said. “If we play good enough defense and get some deflections, our break’s going to be that much better and then teams are going to have a tough time with us.”
Eventually, Walton wants his team to better…