Lonzo Ball only has a few minutes at his disposal.
Amid a five-game West Coast road trip, tucked between an evening practice and film session, the fifth-year guard is a busy man. It’s emblematic of the on-court responsibilities asked of him in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, who find themselves tied for second in the Eastern Conference through a month of action.
He wrangles with star scorers, ignites transition opportunities, dimes up teammates, splashes triples, and helps anchor a top-10 defense. After inking a four-year, $85 million, Ball is enjoying the best season of his career in a situation he chose for himself rather than it being chosen for him. Chicago looks like a major contender in the East, in part because of the two-way dynamism he provides. The schemes are catered to enhance his services and he is not expected to morph his game, chief reasons he’s now donning the Bulls, red, white and black.
Last week, Uproxx briefly caught up with Ball to talk about his free agency, how the Bulls have come together so quickly and a host of other topics.
With C4 Energy, why are you partnering with them. How does it align with your nutritional preferences and training regimen?
I think C4 wants to be the best in the athletic business along with myself, so, you know, me wanting to be a top athlete, obviously, I want to put the top product in my body. And I think it just made sense on that note, just because we both want to be the best.
I’m sure you get all different sorts of companies trying to partner with you and getting into your daily routine or what not, but what is it specifically about C4 that you like?
I think C4 is just a solid brand all-around. They do things the right way. They have a lot of great people working for them. I think (my rep) made it very easy for me to hop on board and be comfortable with the whole process.
C4 Energy is my go-to boost for keeping (me) at the top of my game. It’s been an energizing partnership so far and having C4 Energy on my team definitely helps fuel me.
When you were a restricted free agent this past summer, what enticed you about the fit with the Bulls?
I feel like the Bulls were just a team that stood out. They wanted me the most for me, and didn’t want me to do anything outside of my element. They wanted the player I am already and they were behind me 100 percent from start to finish. So for me, it was a pretty easy decision. As you can see, that’s why I signed so early on in free agency. Like I said, they just stuck out to me and it’s always nice to have somebody want you.
What was it about the Bulls play-style that really appealed to you?
It’s really talking to (head coach) Billy (Donovan) and Zach (LaVine) about how they wanted to play. Obviously, I know guarding Zach and having played against him for the last couple years, the type of talent he was. Any time you have a wing like that and a coach that wants you to play your style of play, it was very appealing, especially for a player like myself and made the decision a lot easier.
Defensively, you’re all playing a pretty aggressive style. You’re helping a lot, you’re in the passing lanes. Is this kind of the style you like to play on that end, being able to take risks and and play physically?
Yeah, definitely had a big role as well. I knew coming here, I’m gonna handle a lot of the big assignments every night. We got AC (Alex Caruso) as well, so me and him take on the bulk of the heavy stars. But, I mean, it’s a collective unit. The type of defense we play, it’s very aggressive. We switch a lot, we try to get into the ball and force a lot of turnovers, so we can get on the break. Obviously, that’s how I want to play. That’s how the team is playing and everything’s pretty much working out for us right now.
You mentioned switching a lot and rotating a ton. Sometimes, with so many new faces involved, like you have with the Bulls, that can take some time for everything to gel or mesh. Why is it you think you’ve all meshed so quickly?
I think, first and foremost, is the effort guys are putting forward, coming in, watching film, seeing the rotations and just correcting them throughout practice and the game. We’re pretty much learning on the fly, just because we have, pretty much, a brand-new team trying to install the new culture. From top to bottom, I think everybody just puts the team first and we don’t have any guys that put themselves first. I think that’s why we’re working so well together on the court.
You mentioned AC, and you have experience playing together in LA. How does that previous experience simplify things?
The experience definitely helps and then, also, AC is not only a very smart, high IQ player. He also won a ring, so he knows what it takes to win. He gives us his knowledge every day. He’s probably one of the most vocal guys on the team and he helps everybody out.
Chicago marks your third team. I’m curious, in New Orleans and Los Angeles, what did those experiences teach you and how did they shape you?
This is my third team in five years and every team’s been a different experience for myself. Obviously, coming to LA, I was a young kid with a lot of expectations put on me that I didn’t really live up to and then, got shipped off to New Orleans, where I worked on my game and improved the areas that needed the most help in. Now, I’m the player I am in Chicago, one of the key guys and trying to contribute every night in and night out.
You mentioned growing and evolving your game in New Orleans. Where do you feel like you’ve taken the biggest steps towards — obviously, the jumper. But are there other other areas that you think a little bit fly under the radar in the sense that you’ve really grown?
The one that sticks out is obviously shooting. But I think defensively, I stepped up a lot in New Orleans, just learning from Jrue Holiday, who I believe is the best defender in the league. Being able to see what he does, night in and night out, it helped me a lot on that side of the ball.
What sorts of things on defense were you able to learn from Jrue during your time with him?
Mostly, pick-and-roll defense. He’s very elite getting over screens like that, and I struggled with that coming into the league, and I think I got a lot better.
I’ve noticed that has improved, and that’s always something Jrue has been great at for years. What’s the art behind it?
First and foremost, it’s knowing what coverage you’re in. Obviously, you got to trust you have a big that’s behind you to call it out. When you’re so locked in to the ball, it’s hard to see where the screen is coming from. But once the big helps you out, I think the main thing is just getting into the ball, getting physical, and just getting over the screen. After that, obviously, you’re gonna get hit. There’s a lot of big guys in this league, you’re gonna get hit. But it’s just that will and fight to get back in front of the ball and keep playing on.