Lonzo Didn’t Have Teammates Back But That’s Not the Biggest Lonzo Problem

When young went rogue on young, meaning the baby Lakers went toe to toe with the baby Suns in another one of their fake tough skirmishes, there was one player that wasn’t having it. Lonzo Ball. Instead of getting in the fight and supporting teammates, Lonzo walked away, unconcerned. He explained his breaking the teammate code this way: he didn’t want to get a tech. It makes logical sense if you don’t understand the NBA culture. While he was worrying about a technical foul his teammates were standing their ground. And what if one of them actually get into a fist fight- yes, it’s rare- but what if? Lonzo is hanging off to the side watching on the bench? Not a good look.

Because it is Lonzo, any misstep is going to be used as an example to further the argument he is a bigger bust than the eye test can see. Here are the Lonzo issues..

He’s an introvert. The point guard is the coach on the floor, even if he is 20 years old. What the point guard cannot be is introverted. Introverted people, by nature, hang back. They lack aggression and fire. They are comfortable letting others lead. All that is fine if you are not a point guard. The point guard is a creator. He is required to attack, lead the fight and make plays for others by initiating. Lonzo pushes the ball up the court with speed and pace, he circulates around the perimeter but he doesn’t initiate any actions by getting in the paint. He goes through long stretches of the game when he doesn’t make an impact.

If you remember the Lonzo game in the NCAA tournament when the Bruins played Kentucky, he played similarly to how he is playing in his early NBA season. In contrast, De’Aaron Fox was the aggressive opposite.

Sweet 16 Points FGA 3pt % Assists
De’Aaron Fox 39 20 0% 4
Lonzo Ball 10 10 16.6% 8

Lonzo has had dynamic games when he is trying to prove his critics wrong. The game after his Patrick Beverley disaster. And then after he was worthless against the Blazers. But therein is the problem. Does he have fire because he has fire? Or is he dependent upon the situation to provide motivation? It is easy to come out blazing when everyone is on your back. But after that, what happens? Back to quiet Lonzo?

He can’t shoot. Lonzo is the worse shooter of the 2017 draft. 30% field goals. 22.7% three pointers. 46.2% from the free thow line. 84 offensive rating. There are a lot of reasons why he is failing when other players his same young age are shooting at a higher efficiency.

Rookie Shooting Blues Points FG% 3pt% Free Throw
De’Aaron Fox 10.9 39.8% 19.0% 70.0%
Dennis Smith Jr. 15.2 39.9% 30.6% 65.8%
Lonzo Ball 8.8 30.8% 22.7% 46.2%

His shot itself is a big problem and needs to be tweaked but that can only be done in the off season. His legs aren’t fully balanced and he isn’t strong enough. He has lost confidence in his ability to make shots. His airballs are consistent.

What he has improved on is putting his head down and getting to the rim. But even then he misses easy baskets. Someone noticed in the 76ers game, after a brutal stretch of misses, the only Laker giving him encouragement was Andrew Bogut.

Not backing up teammates in a scrum. Anyone who cares about money appreciates Ball tyring to save some bucks and not get a technical. Pure basketball and it is a smart move. Always thinking about consequences. However, teammate loyalty matters in basketball. Everybody has to be all in with one another. If it’s your teammate, it doesn’t matter the particulars. You have to get in there and protect them. All for one, one for all.

In his eighth NBA game, at Portland, Ball became the first top-5 player in 25 years to not score a single point. Forget the goose egg. Lonzo only attempted 2 shots, his lowest of the season.

Shaquille O’Neal believes Lonzo is being reactive to all of the he’s a bust, what about your big baller now shade being thrown his way. And of course, that is very convenient. He isn’t playing up to his expectation nor his draft position. But it’s deeper than a disappearing act in Rip City or not covering for your teammates. It is something more fundamental that should scare the hell out of Magic Johnson. Actually Magic Johnson was the first to have a feeling about Ball that this might be a reality.

Magic was underwhelmed with the Lonzo workout. Lonzo himself said he just went out there and played his regular game, nothing special to it. That struck Magic as a little soft. Or, at the very least, passive.

Passive is the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Lonzo. However, the one position where passivity fails is at the point guard. It has nothing to do with Lonzo being expressionless but it has everything to do with Lonzo being introverted. Steph, Russ, Dame, Wall, Harden, Kyrie, CP3.Name an introverted point guard? Name a point guard you have to tell to be aggressive? Aggressiveness is the skill set, the talent. What has bothered me about Lonzo is that he plays like he is a ghost sometimes. Yes, after that Patrick Beverley beat down he turned it up in Phoenix. I was curious as to what happens after Phoenix. Did he just want to prove a point and then revert to normal, which is human behavior. We do what we do until we are under pressure. When the pressure is over we go back to who we really are.

The uncomfortable question or the elephant in the room is could this be who Lonzo Ball really is? Content. Laid back. Willing to let Kyle Kuzma take his rookie shine.

I don’t see any hunger.

Ball is talented at negotiating and navigating and delivering. But he was benched earlier for not playing defense which he admitted.

Ball is what you want in a player. He isn’t selfish. He is responsible. He is mature and doesn’t say anything bad about anyone. He doesn’t talk trash. In a way, he is the anti-Lavar. But despite all those assets, his desire and hunger is average. And that separates the good from the great. I can’t remember one great player as a rookie they had to tell to be aggressive.

Ball has never really played for a losing team. And as a community, Lakers fans and their expectations are rationality deprived. Frustration is never a victim-less crime and like D’Angelo before him, Lonzo hears about it on his social media feeds. Perhaps it is part of his reluctance. But, then again the point guard needs a strong ego. A Kyrie like ego who is willing to forgo playing with LeBron James to be his own flat earth exceptional.

The Lakers are better than they were last year. But they still have a problem. How to get talented free agents to come and play with a passive point guard who doesn’t back up his teammates because he is worried about a technical.

 

 

photo via llananba