Heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers have prioritized Lonzo Ball’s long-term health in his second season.
Despite averaging a near triple-double (10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists), much of the attention was on his shooting form and percentages (36 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from the three-point line).
Ball does not believe his shooting form has changed much, and how subtle adjustments will translate into a game setting has yet to fully be seen. He was just cleared Thursday for full-contact practices and scrimmages.
One reason the Lakers had the luxury of exercising extreme caution with Ball’s recovery from knee surgery is the presence of Rajon Rondo. He was instrumental in aiding Ball’s development even while he couldn’t work on the court.
“This summer was the first time I couldn’t play basketball,” Ball said. “Definitely had a lot more time in the weight room, a lot of time in the film room. Just kind of doing everything other than playing basketball to help myself moving forward. Guys like LeBron, guys like Rondo, and obviously Magic, they helped me out along the way.”
As Ball was still able to improve his physical shape, he also had an opportunity to watch film with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Rondo.
“Me being 20 years old, being able to sit down with the best point guard ever in my opinion, and Rondo who’s been doing this for a very long time at a high level, it was kind of crazy,” Ball said. “Just sitting there listening to those guys speak, it was very powerful. When Rondo talks, you’re going to listen. Obviously when Magic talks, you’ve got to listen. It was amazing.”
While there is an open competition for the team’s starting point guard position, Rondo is already having an impact on Ball as a mentor. “I watched Rondo a lot growing up, especially when he played for Boston,” Ball said.
“Rajon is usually the smartest due on the court every time. Just watching him play pickup, 5-on-5, it’s crazy because he’s talking the whole time. For me, I want to be more of a vocal leader, so he can definitely help me with that. We already had a film session; it was probably one of the best film sessions I’ve ever had. Definitely going to learn a lot from him this year.”
In Ball’s rookie season, Tyler Ennis was his backup until the Isaiah Thomas trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Thomas was a mentor, Ball and Rondo have similar skill sets, which will only speed up the development process.
With Ball looking to make a full recovery, there is great optimism he can build on his rookie season with better talent around him now.