Through all the hand wringing about his shooting percentage and whether he could ever be a successful shooter with his unorthodox motion, Lonzo Ball maintained one mantra:
“I’m going to keep shooting.”
Now that the shots are falling, his words haven’t changed much.
“Just confidence,” Ball said. “I’ve been missing for a long time, I’m bound to start hitting. I’m going to keep shooting. They’re all good shots to me, so it’s feeling good.”
Ball made 41% of his three-pointers during his season at UCLA. While the three-point line is closer to the basket in college than in the NBA, it wasn’t uncommon for Ball to step back to NBA range and shoot successfully.
That’s why despite his dismal shooting start in the NBA — he was the worst shooter among qualified rookies for a time — his coaches never worried about whether he would ultimately recover.
Ball’s recovery began in the practice gym. After bad shooting nights, he would visit the Lakers’ facility with his manager, Darren Moore, and shoot for an hour or two. After practice and before games, he worked with Lakers assistant Miles Simon on footwork and minor mechanical things, though the Lakers never tinkered with his shooting motion.
About a month ago the Lakers started to notice a change in practice. Suddenly Ball’s shot was falling there; now they just needed that to translate to games.
That has come recently. Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, Ball made five of six three-pointers, sinking his first four three-point attempts. In the past five games, Ball has made 47% of his three-point attempts.
“For playing the hardest position in the NBA as a rookie I thought he’s had an unbelievable season so far even before he started shooting the ball better,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Game by game he figures out more and it’s good to see that his hard work is paying off.”
Forward Kyle Kuzma has joined the ranks of Lakers royalty with a recent spate of strong games.
Kuzma is the first rookie since Jerry West in 1961 to have at least three consecutive games with 25 points or more. Kuzma’s fifth game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds is the most for a Lakers rookie since Magic Johnson had 10 in the 1979-80 season.
James Worthy had three such games in the 1982-83 season.
It’s no coincidence that Kuzma has played this well as the Lakers have faced some of the best teams in the NBA.
“I like playing big games,” Kuzma said. “Past three games have been pretty big so I think that definitely contributed to it.”