Lonzo Ball wows, then struggles, in underwhelming Lakers Summer League debut

Henry Bushnell
Lonzo Ball struggled in his first NBA Summer League game.

Not even 20 seconds into his first somewhat official game with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lonzo Ball brought an expectant and lively crowd to its feet with an alley-oop that exemplified the talent that made Ball the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft:


The pass was a microcosm of the reasons for excitement surrounding Ball. The Lakers took the former UCLA point guard, a Southern California native, with hope that he will develop into a transcendent passer in the NBA. He got his Lakers career, unofficially, off to a perfect start.

But Ball’s overall performance on the evening was ultimately disappointing — very disappointing. He played 32 minutes of a 42-minute game against the Clippers, and scored just five points on 2-of-15 shooting. He tallied five assists, three turnovers and four fouls as the Lakers blew a double-digit lead and lost to the Clippers in overtime, 96-93.

Ball deferred to Brandon Ingram on the final possession of regulation in a tie game, but Ingram missed a pull-up jumper at the buzzer, and appeared to hurt himself on the landing. The injury did not appear to be serious, however.

Ball did some things well that won’t show up on the stat sheet. His ability to put the ball ahead in transition and give wings opportunities to attack before an opposing defense gets set was unmatched in college basketball last year, and was on display early on in Las Vegas. His passing set the tempo, and got the Lakers out to an early lead.

But they let that lead slip away as Ball struggled to create for himself off the dribble. That’s one of the knocks on him. He couldn’t separate from opposing defenders, even when he attacked bigs on switches.

He also struggled with his jump shot, making just one of his 11 3-point attempts. The Clippers played off him on the perimeter, and baited him into threes. Here was his one make:


His 10 misses were a big reason the Lakers offense stalled, especially in the second half.

The most impressive players in the game were Clippers sophomore Brice Johnson and rookie Sindarius Thornwell. Johnson had 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. On one fourth-quarter play, he got Ball on a mismatch in the post and took him to school.

The Clippers’ official Twitter account, meanwhile, got in a slick, punny subtweet:


Thornwell, who led South Carolina on a Cinderella run to the Final Four this past March, scored a team-high 26 points. He bulldozed his way to 18 free throw attempts. Ingram, who is really too good to be playing in the Summer League, also had 26 for the Lakers. But he couldn’t single-handedly carry the offense as Ball sputtered.

So it’s time to freak out about Ball’s performance, right?

Nope, not at all. It’s one game. It’s Ball’s first game as a Laker. It’s his first real basketball game since March. There are legitimate questions about how Ball’s skillset will translate to the pros. There are legitimate concerns, even. But there aren’t any concerns that specifically arise from one game at Las Vegas Summer League.

The Lakers are back in action on Saturday for a showdown with No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

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