• It wasn't Lonzo's night Thursday but let's reserve judgment before jumping to conclusions.
By Rohan Nadkarni
October 20, 2017

After months of overeager-dad generated hype, Lonzo Ball’s actual NBA debut Thursday left a lot to be desired. Those who stayed up late on the East Coast were treated to a blowout, with the Clippers maintaining their status as the top dog in L.A. with a 108–92 win. Ball, expected to help bring the Lakers back to contender status, didn’t exactly bring them any closer on night one.

Ball finished with a pedestrian line—3 points, 4 assists and 9 rebounds. The Lakers still look more like a collection of parts than an actual team. The occasional thrill of Julius Randle creating his own offense or Brandon Ingram making a nice play at the rim was offset by inattentive defense and a lack of mature talent. Brook Lopez is clearly the best player on the Lakers, and he must be wondering how he’s being shuttled from rebuilding project to rebuilding project.

Ball was meant to be the biggest attraction of the night, but he got a full-throated welcome to the NBA from Patrick Beverley, perhaps the most annoying point guard to have to face in your professional debut. Beverley bulldogged Ball all over the court, living in his jersey on defense with an intense physicality. Beverley even showed Ball a thing or two on offense.

Lonzo will have to get used to facing his opponents’ best every night. Fair or not, the young guard has a glowing target on his back, and playing in a city thirsty for relevance won’t help him stay under the radar. Ball doesn’t seem like the type to shy away from the spotlight, even if that could help him face some less motivated competition.

Still, Zo’s night wasn’t all negative. He played unselfishly, and his willingness to pass has seemed to catch on with his teammates. With Beverley playing tight defense, Ball tried to affect the game by doing the little things (like rebounding!), and he certainly didn’t check out mentally when the game started slipping away.

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Most importantly, while there’s some palpable excitement in Lakerland, Thursday was a reminder that this project is going to take a while. The Lakers are a team in transition, and their roster could look completely different by next October. It’s hard to be patient with a No. 2 pick as flashy as Ball, but the Chateau Marmont wasn’t built in a day. (Heck, it took Shaq and Kobe four years to win a title together.)

Ball’s potential isn’t any lower because of an uneventful opening night. The Lakers, however, have a long way to go before it’s fair to consistently expect much more than what they showed Thursday night.

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