The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t won a lot of games over the past several seasons. While many of those defeats were of the blowout variety, quite a few were also simply because the team has lacked a consistent closer since Kobe Bryant suffered his Achilles injury at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Lonzo Ball leading the team to a win in crunch time against a terrible Phoenix Suns roster doesn’t necessarily mean that has changed, but it’s a start. Ball was terrific for the Lakers all game, becoming the first rookie in Lakers history to put up at least 29 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists, and the first rookie in the entire league to do so since Blake Griffin.
Ball was just as good down the stretch, scoring three of the Lakers last four baskets while assisting on the other. The whole display left Lakers head coach Luke Walton reminded of none other than Bryant, even if he didn’t want fans or reporters getting ahead of themselves due to the comparison via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
“It’s a focus level. I’m not calling him Kobe, but Kobe was the same way. As a teammate, I knew not even to touch Kobe in those moments because he was locked in to what he’s doing. But in those moments, those players that don’t let the pressure get to them, they stay calm, and I think Lonzo recognized that the game wasn’t over. We had a lot of work to do.“
Obviously Ball isn’t on Bryant’s level talent-wise yet. Bryant was a psycho who didn’t even blink when players like Matt Barnes faked throwing a ball directly at his face from inches away as well as a clutch hero who hit game-winner after game-winner his whole career.
Ball is going to have to do a lot more than put up one historic box score against a Suns defense that could charitably be described as “actively not caring” two games into their season to get on Bryant’s level.
That being said, Ball showed the full scope of his potential in the Lakers’ win against Phonix, and he did it with the same emotionless demeanor he had while getting harassed all evening by LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley the night before.
That ability to remain equally unfazed whether he’s playing well or playing poorly will serve him well as he moves forward in his NBA career whether any other aspects of his game are ever comparable to Bryant or not.