MILWAUKEE — Through the dissection of his shooting and value, Lonzo Ball absorbed the messages of his teammates and coaches. These Los Angeles Lakers had seen Ball begin to transform the team’s playing style the way coach Luke Walton had desired from his Golden State tenure, so they preached: Keep shooting.
Ball kept playing his way, surpassing LeBron James on Saturday night to become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks and three steals in the Lakers’ 98-90 loss to the Bucks. He had lamented the Lakers’ road defeat, dropping them to 5-8, but he walked out of the Bradley Center determined not to change his game, his shot approach, or how he should be judged as a player who attempts to be carefree of percentages and stats.
“I really don’t give a … I’ve played this way my whole life,” Ball told The Vertical. “In today’s NBA, a lot of point guards get buckets, but I go off my impact and what I can do to win games. It’s not going to be scoring every night, but I’m trying to improve that. The way I play, it comes from Dad. He really don’t care about noise either. My dad had me on lesser teams, so I had to do more and it prepares me.
“For us, it’s tough to lose on this road trip. We come out here in different time zones and play good teams night in and night out. We need to learn from it and get wins.”
This franchise invested in Ball’s passion for victories and playing fluidly, traits that have placed him on triple-double alert for several games this season. He led a competitive effort Saturday night, with a team-high plus-10 in nearly 39 minutes against the elevated Bucks with Eric Bledsoe in the fold. Around these Lakers, there’s trust in Ball’s organic play, his ability to grasp rebounds and dart the ball up-court for early scores, and his penchant for finding Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez and Julius Randle in screen-and-roll situations.
For Ball, the focus on his shooting is constant. The triple-double “will keep the media off his back,” Walton said late Saturday, “but I don’t think he cares about that. He cares about winning. We all know him: He doesn’t care about a triple-double.”
For a Lakers organization plotting its ability to improve the team in free agency, the developments of Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kuzma are critical, and the league has seen flashes so far. Ball went 7-of-12 from the field and made three 3-pointers Saturday night, but knows his shooting must improve from his sub-30 percent mark entering the game and that his aggressiveness must remain consistent.
Walton was one of the Lakers who remained in Ball’s ear over the past week and consistently huddled with his point guard to discuss coverages and scoring play sets. Ball told his coaches in private that he would continue shooting without hesitation, and reinforced it on Saturday night.
“I’m going to keep shooting,” Ball told The Vertical. “My teammates, my coaches, everybody — they know I can shoot. They see it in practice.”
Lonzo Ball cemented himself in the NBA’s record books, supplanting LeBron’s previous mark at 20 years and 15 days. This season will contain highs and lows, rookie walls and critiques, but Ball is determined to follow his own judgment. “My impact is on wins and losses,” he said, “and tonight we lost, but we have to keep going.”
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