Lakers News: LeBron James on Winless Start, Lonzo Ball's Minutes and MoreOctober 23, 2018
The Los Angeles Lakers may have the best player on the planet, but it hasn't been enough to win a game yet this season. The Lakers dropped to 0-3 after a heartbreaking 143-142 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
After hitting a three-pointer to tie the game at the end of the regulation, LeBron James had another chance to play hero. Up 142-141 late in overtime, James missed two free throws, setting up the Spurs' Patty Mills to hit the late game-winner.
As it turns out, James is superhuman in just about every aspect of the game except this one, per ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
LeBron James missed 2 FTs with 12 secs left in OT and the Lakers up 1. In the final 15 seconds of the 4th qtr/OT, LeBron is 10-21 (48%) on FTs in one-score games since the start of last season. That's the worst FT pct of any player with at least 10 FTA in those situations. https://t.co/VydjZfZDTL
It hasn't been easy for the Lakers, but there are some positive signs out of this contentious start (one that's already seen two key players earn suspensions). Here's a roundup of the latest Lakers news after Monday's loss.
LeBron Unfazed by Winless Start
James had to know there would be some fits and starts with a young core and a roster vastly different from last season. Everyone wants to get that first win out of the way as soon as possible, and yet James doesn't seem concerned in the least about the 0-3 start.
It's not tough," James said after the Spurs game, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin. "I know what I got myself into. It's a process. I get it. And it will be fine.
"So, I didn't come here thinking we were going to be blazing storms right out of the gate. It's a process, and I understand that."
James, now in his 16th season, clearly has gained some perspective during his time in the NBA. That will help not only himself and his teammates, but the organization as a whole going forward. If James isn't worried about the struggle, or the process if you will, why should anyone else?
The 33-year-old superstar has proved he is capable of playing with just about anyone and spearheading a competitive team. There is plenty of young talent on the roster, and they are showing signs of growth. Kyle Kuzma scorched the Spurs for 37 points, and Josh Hart added 20 of his own. Plus, starting the season against Portland, Houston and San Antonio isn't exactly a cakewalk. All three of those teams have been consistently good or great over the past few years.
The first win may come soon enough; the Lakers visit the 1-2 Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Lonzo Ball's Minutes Restriction Lifted
In all the craziness of Monday's thriller against the Spurs, a key bit of roster news may have slipped past some Lakers fans. Second-year point guard Lonzo Ball, who spent the offseason recovering from knee surgery, may be allowed to play as much as the Lakers decide they need him from this point on.
Lakers Film Room reported that his minutes restriction was lifted ahead of the Spurs tilt:
This one was partly out of necessity, with Rajon Rondo suspended for three games for fighting with the Houston Rockets' Chris Paul on Saturday. Walton had tapped Rondo to start the first two games of the season, bringing Ball off the bench.
Instead, Ball got the start on Monday, playing 33 minutes and finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. He was also involved in a wild sequence in the overtime period, one that saw his preternatural passing ability on full display.
Ball's sublime passing will be key to the Lakers' success going forward. Walton wants to push the pace and gets buckets in transition, so he needs someone with great court vision and passing accuracy to spring those breaks. Ball's minutes will dip again when Rondo comes back, but it will be interesting to see how long the veteran can keep him out of the starting lineup.
Johnathan Williams' Strong Debut
Rookie Johnathan Williams only signed a two-way contract with the Lakers on Friday, and by Monday, he was already making a case for more playing time. With starting center JaVale McGee in foul trouble, Williams played some key minutes against the Spurs and looked the part of a solid rotation player, racking up eight points, four rebounds and three blocks.
The numbers here are a bit arbitrary, but it was a uniquely strong debut for Williams, per Silver Screen and Roll's Harrison Faigen:
The eight points were nice, but coach Walton was impressed with Williams' showing on the defensive end.
"That's what we've seen from him [Williams] since training camp," Walton said, per the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner. "It's what made our staff start to really take a close look at him. Defensively, he's active and he's really intelligent. His communication for being a guy calling out coverages is really impressive. Those were the things we saw."
The Lakers are short on good defenders, which will only help Williams' case going forward. The Gonzaga product is 6'9" with a long wingspan, capable of playing both at forward and center. With Kuzma covering for the suspended Brandon Ingram, taking him away from his small-ball center duties, Williams could play a key role again on Wednesday against the Suns.