It sucks the basketball life out of many Lakers fans that they have to wait until next year to enjoy Lonzo Ball again. The Lakers decided it was time to shut him down after an ankle sprain (and subsequent bone bruise) suffered against the Houston Rockets on January 19th put him down in the midst of the team dealing with LeBron James’ absence due to a groin injury. For Ball, he’s yet to play anywhere close to two full seasons and for the Lakers, that’s a huge problem.
There’s somewhat of a silver lining in the dark clouds surrounding the injury-riddled Ball. This will be his first summer where he can work on his game and body. Last season, rehabilitating a surprise knee surgery took up his post-rookie-year offseason. Despite a limited agenda, Ball came back with noticeable added weight to his upper-body, looking the part of an NBA athlete. This time around, he has to do the same work with his lower body and add a little explosion while he’s at it. Ball spoke to The Athletic regarding the changes to come:
“I’m very, very motivated,” Ball told The Athletic. ” I want to be the best I can be. I’m looking forward to the summer. I don’t look at it as added pressure, because I haven’t had a full summer yet to dedicate to myself. I have to keep working on my craft. I’m just happy I’m going to be healthy.”
Ball has not been a good penetrator and finisher. He missed many bunnies due to bad touch around the rim and what seems to be a lack of understanding of his size and tools. According to NBA.com, he’s finishing in the paint (non-restricted area) at a rate of 21.4 percent.
If Ball plans to play more at the rim, then free-throws have to be a high priority. In his first two seasons, he’s shooting 43.7 percent from the line. As a lead ball-handler, those numbers are borderline unplayable, especially with hopes that the Lakers will play deep into the playoffs one day. The last thing that the Lakers need is a “hack a Lonzo” putting any big games in jeopardy. It goes without saying how important being able to get those minutes mean to the Lakers pursuit of another ring.
Last year, Lonzo Ball said it was the most important summer of his life. With the injury taking that way, his energy needs to migrate to the present. Much of the Lakers success will be dependent on the changes that he makes. This year was a nightmare for Lonzo’s aspirations, despite his improved play right before his injury. The bright side is that in the specific ways that he struggled, he now has a chance to turn things around.