ANAHEIM, Calif. — In his first preseason game as a Los Angeles Laker, Lonzo Ball struggled with his shot but still displayed his ability to rack up triple-double-like numbers.
After a summer and first week of camp (he went 6-0 in 5-on-5 scrimmages with the team) that only added to the hype surrounding Ball, the No. 2 overall pick finally made his preseason debut with five points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals in a 108-99 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Honda Center.
Despite the fact that Ball missed seven of nine shots, including shooting 1-of-5 from 3-point range, the rookie didn’t do anything to temper the excitement surrounding him and the Lakers for this coming season. After all, the Lakers didn’t have much offense installed for this preseason opener, having worked on defense for much of camp. Still, Ball entertained fans with his passing as he zipped balls all over the court.
With Magic Johnson, GM Rob Pelinka and Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss on hand, there was a considerable buzz at the Honda Center for just a preseason opener.
Just minutes after being introduced last in the Lakers’ starting five, Ball’s first pass attempt was an alley-oop lob to Larry Nance Jr. that was broken up. Still, the excitement was there.
The rookie registered his first assist after grabbing an offensive rebound and finding Brandon Ingram for a 3-pointer. His first two assists went to Ingram — something Lakers president Johnson said he hopes to see frequently and with Magic-James Worthy-like chemistry in the near future.
After missing his first two shots, Ball made a 3-pointer with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter as fans cheered on. The rookie made some mistakes, having several passes deflected and once jumping into the air before making a decision and turning the ball over — something Johnson had warned him about after seeing it happen during the summer league.
Ball had three turnovers in his 35 minutes but nothing that will temper the Lakers’ and their fans’ excitement about the rookie. After all, Ball had a very similar game in his summer league debut before racking up a couple of triple-doubles and leading the Lakers to the summer league title.
“I’m more interested to see how he does defensively,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said before the game. “… He’s been great, he seems to not let [the attention] really affect him. It’s pretty impressive for a guy his age that has the whole world talking about him all the time. Everywhere we go, he’s getting swarmed like an All-Star already.
“He seems to handle it in stride and not let it get to him, at least from what we’ve seen. What we saw in summer league, obviously, and the way that he comes in and works every day with his teammates, so he’s been great.”