When the Lakers put together their roster last summer, players and staff lauded the inclusion of so many capable ball handlers.
Among young returners Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram and veterans LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson, the Lakers could utilize two, three or even four ball handlers on the court at once, and were excited about the thought.
In the early part of the season, that has taken some adjustment for Ball.
“Just trying to find my place,” Ball said Saturday night after the Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings. “This year’s a little different than it was last year, still trying to figure out what I can do out there, just try to play my spots.”
The two ball handlers who have impacted Ball the most are James and Rondo. James has spent his career as a talented facilitator, which is part of the reason Ball looked up to him more than any other player growing up.
Rondo’s minutes as the Lakers’ other point guard have meant less time for Ball with the ball in his hands. In four of the last five games, Rondo has played more minutes than Ball. They sometimes share the court too, which means adjusting to each other.
“He’s still finding his groove and it’s, for him and for everyone else on this team, it’s adjustments,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Ball. “Guys are learning how to play. We have, we want and we love having multiple ball handlers and multiple playmakers, but it’s an adjustment for guys who are used to having the ball in their hands.”
In Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Ball reached double figures in assists for the first time this season. It was also the first time in five games that he was on the floor longer than Rondo.
“Had the ball in my hands, tried to make some plays,” Ball said. “Lot of pick and rolls today. That’s a little different than for most of the year. So I was just trying to do what I could to create for the team.”
After making only two of 10 shots Saturday and one of six last Wednesday — and missing all nine of his three-point attempts in the two games — Ball made two of five shots Sunday, both three-pointers.
“I struggled statistically,” Rondo said Saturday when asked about Ball’s shooting woes. “It doesn’t matter when you’re winning. So, the biggest thing is continuing to get better. It’s a long season. You’re not going to play great every night. So for me, I just try to tell the young guys just to keep focus. You guys are going to make a big deal about a lot of things that he does because he is who he is, but at the end of the day we’re winning so there’s not too much negativity that you can say. He’s going to continue to grow.”
Reviewing the calls
Tyson Chandler carefully studied Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young’s form throughout Sunday’s game, so his timing on his game-winning block of a floater by Young was no accident.
The league reviewed the play and released its findings in its Monday report on the game’s last two minutes. The review found that Chandler caught the ball before it reached its apex, which means the officials at the game were justified in not calling Chandler for goaltending.
Another no-call also was deemed correct. With 1:41 left to play, Young turned the ball over after it hit James in the foot. The Hawks argued that it was a kicked ball, and Kent Bazemore was assessed a technical foul shortly thereafter.