Former Chino Hills High School star and current Los Angeles Lakers rookie, Lonzo Ball, already had a lot of pressure when he was drafted #2 overall out of UCLA in the NBA Draft by the Lakers; but after seeing his skills showcased at the NBA Summer League where he went on to be named the MVP, it seems that he has put the world on notice, and the expectations have been flowing in.
In ESPN’S yearly Summer Forecast, Ball was voted as the favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
This year is said to be one of the best rookie classes in the last decade with a lot of strong candidates expected to make an impact on their respective teams immediately.
A few days before that, the Lakers were also projected to see an increase in wins from their woeful 26, a season ago—another direct correlation to Ball. This should be no surprise to some, as Vice President of Basketball Operations and former Laker great Earvin “Magic” Johnson set the bar high during the introductory press conference when he introduced Ball as the “New face of the Lakers franchise.”
“I’m going to put a little pressure on you right now, you look to your right, there’s some jerseys hanging on that wall. We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there one day, all right? Good.” Johnson said to Ball.
From his first practice in preparation for the Summer League, Ball has received praises from his teammates and coaches. “I like his game. I like the way he attacks his game. It’s going to be fun,” said former #2 overall pick, Brandon Ingram. He later described Ball as “Very unselfish.” He continued by adding, “He pushes the paces on the offensive end. I think he’s going to create a lot of easy shots.”
Lakers head Coach of the Summer, League Jud Buechler, said, “There’s so much to like about Ball’s game. The passing stands out. He’s already one of the best passers I’ve seen at this level.”
Ball went on to average 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds in route to leading the Lakers to a Summer League Championship. Though it’s the summer league and a lot of the players that played in it will not find themselves on a NBA roster opening night of the regular season, those are numbers that have be taken with some type of optimism giving the product that Laker fans have endured over the last four years. The team will now try and build off the summer and carry that momentum into the season.
“When Rob and I took over when Jeanie Buss hired us, we strive for excellence. We wanted to talk about doing things the right way. We wanted to talk about winning and building a winning tradition. And it started with these young men tonight. Winning the Summer League. Then it has to carry over to our summer workouts and into training camp, exhibition season and into next season. So, the Lakers are back, we’re going to try to build and grow. We’re going to have a great year but also build toward having sustainability so we can have a lot of great years,” said Magic Johnson.
After the worst four years in franchise history, the buzz around the team has picked up. Season Tickets have already sold out and a lot of fans are already whispering playoffs. Though the Lakers may still be a year or two away from making appearances in the postseason, all eyes will definitely be on Ball this year. Ball will have the most pressure and expectations on a rookie player arguably since LeBron James in 2003. Whether a 19-year old meet those expectations while carrying one of the NBA’s biggest franchise on his back will be intriguing to follow.
By Keith D. King
Feature photo: Lonzo Ball/Facebook