Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball registered the second triple-double of his young career after accumulating 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists in the Lakers’ 127-109 win over the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center on Sunday.
Ball, this year’s second overall draft pick out of UCLA, only took 16 official NBA games before achieving the milestone. His 16 boards were a career-high and the most by a freshman this season. It was also the highest rebounding performance for a rookie in 17 years. Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis pulled down 17 rebounds for the Houston Rockets as a rookie in January 2000.
Seven Lakers players scored in double digits against the Nuggets, including all five starters of head coach Luke Walton. Julius Randle came off the bench to top score for the Lakers with 24 points alongside seven rebounds and five assists.
Veteran big man Brook Lopez had 21 points to lead the starters while rookie Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Brandon Ingram netted 17, 15, and 13 points respectively. Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points as a substitute.
It has been a consistent theme for the Lakers’ offense as seven of the teams’ players are averaging double figures in scoring this season. The players are Kuzma (16.4), Lopez (15.1), Clarkson (15.1), Ingram (14.9), Caldwell-Pope (11.6), Randle (11.4), and Nance Jr. (10.6), per ESPN. Ball is averaging only 8.8 points per game so far.
Ball’s achievement is at par with Lakers legend and current president Magic Johnson as they are the only two players in franchise history to record multiple triple-doubles in their first year of playing in the league.
Ball is struggling with his shots this season, knocking only 30.8 percent of his field goals and shooting a dismal 22.7 percent from downtown. Fans have criticized Balls’ awkward shot release, and many basketball experts have suggested for him to change or at least modify it to adapt to the NBA.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Mike & Mike, Johnson said that the Lakers plan to “let him play his game” and “let him shoot the way he’s been shooting.” However, if Ball’s shooting does not improve at the end of the season, Johnson admitted that they would “sit down” and talk to the rookie on how the coaches can help improve it.
Aside from his on-court struggles, Ball is also having some personal off-court issues regarding his little brother, LiAngelo. LiAngelo and two other UCLA players were recently jailed in China after being accused of shoplifting. The three players were already discharged, but it resulted in a back-and-forth tweet war between his father, LaVar, and United States president Donald Trump, CNN reported.
Despite the many distractions and high expectations in Los Angeles, Ball is seen as a steady figure on the court, except for his field goal shooting.
“He’s got more on his plate than I can ever imagine anyone having, especially at his age,” said Walton. “It is our job to be here and let him know that we support him and believe in him.”
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]