After a rough first outing that saw him shoot poorly (though make good decisions overall) and then bounce back with a triple double in his second game, things were looking up for Lonzo Ball in Las Vegas. Then, a sore groin kept him out of a game against the Kings and De’Aaron Fox, which prompted critiques and calls of him “ducking the fade” coming to him from the former Kentucky guard who dropped a boatload of points on the Bruins in the NCAA tourney.
So, it seemed like whatever progress Ball made had been reeled back in. That narrative got flipped on its head Wednesday night, though. Rocking a purple pair of Kobe AD’s instead of his own BBB kicks, Lonzo came out and played the game fans and critics alike were wanting to see from him.
36 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and two blocks. He hit 12 of his 22 shots, got to the rim in the half court, and dominated the transition game with full court attacks off the bounce and via outlet passes to streaking teammates. This was the guy the Lakers drafted #2 overall. He was glorious.
As I wrote before summer league began, I don’t put too much weight on stats in summer league; it’s more about whether a guy passes a certain eye test. What’s his decision making like? Does he get to spots on the floor? Is he playing team ball and making the extra pass? Is he able to turn it on in a key moment? Ball is checking off these boxes and (at least in the last couple of games) he’s getting numbers too.
Further, there’s an electricity about him and it’s driving interest and commentary in a way which, honestly, isn’t really normal. After the game, fans and media alike (and even LeBron James) took note of him wearing Kobe’s shoe and then exploding for as many points as he did. When you watch the highlights above, listen to the crowd respond to his passes or how the announcers react to the plays that he’s making. He’s carrying a buzz with him that simply doesn’t come around very often. Maybe it’s the marketing machine and his father’s proclamations, but it wouldn’t mean much if he wasn’t able to show it on the court.
And Wednesday night he did just that. Many who fully believed in Lonzo heading into and coming out of the draft surely knew this was possible, but many more who didn’t were on the fence about whether or not this kid could really play. Well, dime by dime, those people are starting to get converted too. Even if it’s just summer league. Lonzo is passing the ball and the eye test and it’s great to see.