‘Welcome to the Ball era’: Lakers lose preseason opener, but that doesn’t matter

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, right, drives against Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague during a preseason exhibition on Sept. 30.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

After a summer filled with drama, basketball served as a unifier for the Los Angeles Lakers organization.

Lonzo Ball’s preseason debut, specifically.

On Saturday night at the Honda Center, there was controlling owner Jeanie Buss, in a section across from the Lakers bench, making a rare preseason appearance, and a rare appearance at a game away from Staples Center at all.

Two sections over there was Jim Buss, who hadn’t made a public appearance with the Lakers since being fired as the team’s executive vice president, then joining his brother Johnny to try and oust their sister as the Lakers’ top executive.


Eight seats over, there was Magic Johnson, whose role as president of basketball operations took over the one Jim vacated, sitting eight seats away from Jim.

Next to him there was general manager Rob Pelinka, eager to see a dress rehearsal of the team he’d helped construct.

There were 16,733 fans, including “20,000” from Chino, according to its loudest promoter, LaVar Ball, who sat a few rows back from the court and declared proudly: “Welcome to the Ball era.”

Even his ever-stoic son allowed himself to feel something when the sold-out crowd roared at his introduction.

“It felt great,” Lonzo Ball said. “Especially when they called my name and all the fans were cheering. That’s what you dream about as a kid. It’s finally here. That was a great moment.”

That the Lakers lost to the Timberwolves 108-99 hardly mattered. With a training camp that lasted only four days and seven practices, the Lakers hadn’t come close to installing their system yet — they’d done no work yet on their half-court offense.

Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma stole the show, making nine of 12 field goal attempts and scoring 19 points.

Julius Randle added 15 points and Jordan Clarkson scored 14, making six of 10 field goal attempts. Ball finished with five points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three turnovers and two steals.

But this was the first time the Lakers got to see Ball face NBA veterans — he began the game guarding Jeff Teague — and got to see how the point guard they expect to lead them into the future could perform.

“Lonzo is so gifted … he always makes everyone on the court a threat,” Walton said. “He’s so unselfish that sometimes he has good shots himself and he tries to get someone else a shot. We want him taking those. Players and scouts in this league know he wants to play-make so we’re looking for him to be a little more aggressive to score the ball especially early on. As defenses adjust, play-make. I thought he was great the way he was moving around out there and getting people involved.”

Ball’s first pass was an attempted lob to Larry Nance Jr. “That was the play,” Ball said. “I probably should’ve thrown it up a little higher. I know Larry can go get it.”

His first assist went to Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, the player with whom Johnson said he expects a Magic Johnson–James Worthy-type connection.

With 3:48 left in the first quarter, Ball drained his first bucket of the game, a three-pointer that caused the crowd to erupt.

As the days pass, the Lakers will keep an eye on how the attention affects Ball.

Just a week into the start of their process, they’re liking what they see.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli