LAS VEGAS – Lonzo Ball’s rocky Summer League debut opened with an eye-popping alley-oop pass and closed with a jaw-dropping assessment from his father, LaVar.
Along the way, the 2017 No. 2 pick dished some spectacular assists, but struggled to find the range on his jumper, hitting just 2 of his 15 shots and only one of his 11 three-point attempts in a 96-93 overtime loss to the Clippers on Friday. He finished with five points, five assists, four rebounds and three turnovers.
“[Lonzo] ain’t gonna be discouraged. This is the worst you can do,” said LaVar, who watched the game from a box near the court and addressed reporters in the mixed zone after the game. “He still kept his team in the game playing his worst game ever. … It’s better for him to start at the bottom than have all this success off the top and now everyone expects it the whole season. He’s gonna grow.”
Ball didn’t just miss, he missed badly and at inopportune moments, rushing some of his attempts and throwing up multiple airballs. The Clippers’ guards regularly dared him to shoot, and yet he spent most of the night looking to pass first and second, tossing a beautiful lob to 2016 No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, finding his teammates with quick passes in transition and lasering cross-court passes to shooters. In the extra period, however, Ball called his own number, attempting and missing two crucial three-pointers.
“I liked the looks,” Ball said. “A lot of them were open. I was just missing shots. … I just hate losing. … The only way I can go now is up. This will probably be the worst game I have all week. … It’s on me. I missed a lot of shots. It’s my fault.”
Those two late misfires helped put the finishing touches on a deflating end to an exciting night for the Lakers, whose fans filled the Thomas & Mack Center and treated Ball, Ingram and company to multiple standing ovations. The Lakers led by as many as 11 points over the Clippers thanks to 26 points (on 9-17 shooting) from Ingram, who showcased a soft jumper and a wide range of dribble moves while battling cramps.
“That’s what I liked about him right here,” LaVar said of his son’s late misses. “He took the shots. They didn’t go in. But he took them. At the end of the game, are you willing to take the big shots? He’s willing to take them. He’s supposed to make those shots but he didn’t. Oh well. … [The Lakers] lost by three or four points in his worst game ever. So if he’s just alright, they win.”
The atmosphere in Las Vegas was electric, as fans donned jerseys of Ball, Ingram, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West. Lakers president Magic Johnson, GM Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton were all in attendance. Former Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, who was traded to the Nets earlier this summer, also watched the game from the baseline. Meanwhile, Ball’s younger brother, LaMelo, took the court during a timeout to participate in a shooting contest with Clippers superfan “Clipper Darrell.”
“I’m going to show you what [Lonzo] did do,” Lavar said, praising his son’s box office power. “Look how many Lakers fans out here. He changed the culture. That’s what it’s about. It ain’t about him being a superstar. Instead of going to the movies, everybody is coming to watch the Lakers and Big Baller Brand.”
Sindarius Thornwell led the Clippers with a game-high 26 points. Brice Johnson added 23 points and seven rebounds in the win.