NBA superstar Kobe Bryant believes that Lonzo Ball “needs to get better now” for the sake of the Los Angeles Lakers. The five-time NBA champion recently gave his thoughts about the state of affairs with the franchise which is looking for a rise to their former glory in the future. The man known as “The Black Mamba” due to his killer instincts to take over a game and win it late didn’t exactly start his career that way. However, Kobe seemed to give an interesting perspective on how Ball and his fellow teammates, especially the younger core, should be approaching things right now.
Per USA Today‘s Lonzo Wire, it was reported that Chris McGee of Spectrum SportsNet sat down with the former Lakers player to get his thoughts on the newest members of the team. That’s when Kobe addressed the topic of rookie Lonzo Ball who has been struggling so far in his first season with the L.A. Lakers. Ball has had his “moments,” but has not been anywhere near the type of player his father LaVar Ball had boasted him being when he entered the league. Kobe suggested that the young player’s mentality for this latest version of the Lakers needs to be trying to win as early as possible, not waiting for it to happen later on.
Bryant suggested a different sort of approach that most rebuilding teams might not even put to use.
“We never thought, ‘Okay we’re gonna win four years from now. We really thought, ‘This is our year. We’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna push, push, push, push, push, get better now.’ And in the process of having that kind of impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s a kind of patient impatience.”
The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t expected to be a contender this season, despite what proud father LaVar Ball may have said. There may have been some fans hoping that Lonzo Ball would arrive and immediately carry the team to the postseason, but so far that seems a prediction that is a bit too lofty. The Lakers are 9-15, which seems about right for the team, and Ball is not playing at an All-Star level just yet. Meanwhile, his fellow rookie, Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, is setting the standard for rookies. Then again, Simmons did get a year to study up with his team before he set foot on the court.
One of Lonzo Ball’s best games came early in the season, where he had an impressive near-triple-double stat line in a 132-130 win over the Phoenix Suns. Ball finished that game with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. However, his season stats have been below the numbers that the top tier of his rookie class is putting up. Ball is averaging 8.8 points, seven assists, and nearly seven rebounds per contest. He even became the youngest NBA player in the history of the league to record a triple-double. That could continue his comparisons to Jason Kidd, but his current shooting stats won’t.
Ball is hitting field goals at about 32 percent and three-point shots at 24.3 percent on average. Even his free throw makes are coming at a dismal rate of 50 percent which makes him a late-game liability. Somehow, the occasional three he makes in a game also makes it onto highlight videos online. Still, the former UCLA star has been mostly praised for his playmaking abilities and those are where he can probably contribute the most in the future. A bit of that was seen when he had the assists on Brandon Ingram’s game-winner against the 76ers several nights ago.
Kobe Bryant’s comments may seem harsh and highly critical of the NBA rookie and his young Lakers teammates. However, when it comes to legends of the game, Kobe is right up there among the best of the best and can be afforded the right to criticize. After all, he set the bar high. Five championship banners are now hanging up at Staples Center because of the “Mamba.” With that said, he certainly had his share of lackluster games and forgettable performances in the early going of his career, so Ball can be forgiven, at least for now.