The moment Rajon Rondo inked a deal to play with LeBron James was the moment Lonzo Ball’s Lakers future was in doubt. Rest assured, Rajon Rondo is going after that Lakers starting point guard position with everything he can muster. He will be Patrick Beverley and Tony Allen and Chris Paul all rolled into one. He is going to target Lonzo in practice and if Lonzo backs down, like his critics think he will, Rondo will get what he wants and then he will have exposed Lonzo as all hype and no game and hella soft.
Lonzo is introverted and Rajon isn’t life of the party but the difference in personality is Rondo has an edge and he has the ability to make someone suffer if he makes them the center of his focus. I kind of feel sorry for Lonzo. Playing with all those Lakers babies is one thing. This is No Boys Allowed basketball when Rajon is trying to take your job.
Lonzo has a torn meniscus and the Lakers camp believe Ball’s loudmouth father leaked it to the media to shrink the Lonzo trade market. But if Magic really wants to get rid of Lonzo, he can. The last we heard Magic speak of Lonzo exhaustively was during the exit interviews in April when he said this summer was going to be the biggest summer of Ball’s life. Magic didn’t sound as someone who was coddling a 20 year old. He sounded like he set the bar for Ball’s 2018-19 super high. Perform or we have other plans.
Lonzo and LeBron have the potential for chemistry if LeBron wants to change his game and be a finisher. Ball can run the break as good as anyone not named Russell Westbrook. He can dish the ball but he didn’t particularly impress me with his supposed thinking two plays ahead. He turned the ball over a little too much, nearly three a game, and wasn’t elite at driving to the rim.
Lonzo’s shot was overanalyzed. Yes, he was brutal putting the rock in the hole. But what no one dared mention was that at the rim Ball finished like a G-leaguer, only completing 49% of his shots. Josh Hart, the Lonzo fill-in when Ball missed 30 games with knee issues, was a 68% finisher at the rim.
There is a giant upside to Lonzo though. He showed great defensive instincts and averaged 7 rebounds and 7 assists. But he went through many games and stretches of games passive, making little impact, and then he was the opposite, electric and sensational. His rookie year was mercurial at best and good luck trying to figure out when he is going to show up.
It makes him expendable, or at the very least, a puppet on a string in make believe trades like to Portland for Damien Lillard (really?) or Charlotte for Kemba Walker (keep dreaming). But what we know now is that Magic has fallen off the Ball train; he isn’t in love anymore. He may not even be in like. Right now he is trying to see if he can get anything out of him and if what he can get from Ball will matter in a LeBron James universe.
Ball’s second year will be nothing like his first. Pressure on day one of training camp from Rondo, from LeBron, from Lance, all the veterans who are either gifted, quirky or crazy. Can Ball rise up and meet the moment? Has he ever had to prove anything? Or, has he always been the best player on the best team?
Those days are over. He is not the best player. He is not the second best player. He is not the third best player. The Lakers are not the best team. The Lonzo fairy tale ended when LeBron James said I Do. Like D’Angelo Russell, Lonzo may have a short Lakers stay.
What happens is up to Lonzo. Or so Magic says.