Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton said the late-game approach showcased by rookie point guard Lonzo Ball in the team's 132-130 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night reminded him of team legend Kobe Bryant.
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments from Walton, who played alongside Bryant for a decade in L.A.
"I'm not calling him Kobe, but Kobe was the same way," Walton said. "As a teammate, I knew not even to touch Kobe in those moments because Kobe was locked in. … In those moments, the players that don't let the pressure get to them, they stay calm."
Ball bounced back from a poor outing in his NBA debut to post 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Lakers past Phoenix.
The 19-year-old UCLA product is used to the spotlight in large part due to his outspoken father, LaVar Ball, making consistently bold predictions about his son's future. After Friday's game, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft downplayed the meaning of one strong showing.
"I know everybody is going to say everything game by game, so if I play bad on Sunday, it is going to go right back to he's a bust," he told reporters. "It doesn't matter to me, I just come out and play as hard as I can to get my team wins."
The Kobe comparisons are going to become common in the coming years if Ball is successful in establishing himself as the new face of the storied franchise. The fact Walton, who had a close-up look at Bryant for so many years, would make one so quickly is a bit surprising, though.
It's an incredibly high standard to live up to, especially for a player two games into his pro career. But Friday's game did put the guard's enormous potential on display.
Ball will look to continue building the early foundation for his Rookie of the Year case Sunday night when the Lakers welcome the New Orleans Pelicans to Staples Center.
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