Even the most promising NBA rookies have a steep learning curve, and many coaches – both old school and new – are apprehensive about trusting young players down the stretch in a tight game. But there’s also an argument to be made that young guys have to be allowed to make mistakes and figure out ways to play through them.
It’s a delicate balance to strike, especially when you’re actually trying to win ball games, which is what the Los Angeles Lakers are apparently trying to do now as new expectations have unexpectedly been thrust upon them. They’ve won three out of their last five and currently sit at .500 for the season, and a postseason berth suddenly doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
But the Ball family patriarch isn’t happy with how coach Luke Walton has been managing his son Lonzo’s playing time of late, particularly during crunch time, noting that he thinks inconsistent minutes are contributing to Lonzo’s slow shooting start.
“Let him play the whole fourth quarter and bet you’ll always win. He’ll get into a better flow,” Ball said. “The in and out, sitting out six to 10 minutes? He’s not going to take no shots because he’s not in the flow. He don’t want to hurt the team by shooting.”
It’s certainly not as if Ball hasn’t been given opportunities. Quite the opposite, in fact. After a zero-point outing against the Blazers last Thursday during which he attempted only two shots, Ball has gone 3-of-15 and 3-of-13, respectively, in the Lakers’ last two games against the Nets and Grizzlies, both wins.
But the big concern here is just how little time elapsed before LaVar started questioning Luke Walton. For a rookie like Lonzo, who can’t shoot yet and who is going to be a roller-coaster of productivity, yet is one of this team’s main draws for the fan-base, managing his playing time will be an ongoing conundrum for Walton, who doesn’t need any added pressure on that front.