This is more like the Lonzo Ball many expected to see this season.
Since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him 15 games, the Los Angeles Lakers rookie has been both efficient and an all-around difference-maker in his three appearances – all of which have been wins.
And in the Lakers’ 131-113 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday, Ball was singled out by Lakers coach Luke Walton as being “the best player on the court” on a night Isaiah Thomas dropped 29 points and Julius Randle added 25.
Ball actually finished with the second-fewest points of any Laker, managing eight, but did so on only five shots while filling up the rest of his stat line with seven assists, six rebounds and six steals.
He became the first Lakers rookie to post a 4×6 game since Magic Johnson in 1979.
“He was great,” said Walton. “To me he was probably the best player on the court tonight, and I think he only shot five times, which is why we’ve been so high on him from day one.
“He’s one of the very unique players, it doesn’t matter if he’s taking shots, scoring 20 a game, or not, he can impact the game from all over. He was doing that for us tonight. All-around probably, in my opinion, the best player on the floor tonight.”
Before returning from injury, Ball was similarly stuffing the stat sheet with 7.1 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game, but shooting just 35.6 per cent overall and 30.3 per cent on 3-pointers.
In his past three games, however, Ball has shot 77.8 per cent from the field (10-of-17) and made 8-of-12 from distance (66.7 per cent).
It’s come in a limited sample size, but his recent uptick in shooting, especially from beyond the arc, has been encouraging, as has his decision-making and willingness to let the game come to him rather than forcing shots.
Even though Ball is likely never going to be a big-time scorer, his ability to impact the game in other ways means he has a high floor, as well as a potentially high ceiling if he can be the efficient shot-maker he has been of late.
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