Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley wanted to make Lonzo Ball’s NBA debut miserable. He hinted at it to the Twittersphere beforehand.
— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) September 15, 2017
Then, he did.
The Lakers rookie, on the other hand, couldn’t care less.
Beverley held Lonzo to an abysmal statline— three points, four assists, nine rebounds— as the Clippers sailed to a 108-92 win over the Lakers Oct. 19. The defensive stalwart usually plays with a chip on his shoulder, but his demeanor towards the rookie felt especially personal: A shove to the ground at mid-court in the first quarter; a taunt after a made 3-pointer in the third; yelling expletives after the game outside the locker room. All that intensity stemming from comments made by LaVar, Lonzo’s braggadocious father.
Lonzo, however, appeared unbothered by the target on his back. Not during the game when he was hounded or after when asked about it.
“(Beverley) is a good defender,” he said post-game, nonchalantly. “I just try to do what I can to get the offense going.”
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The dominant narrative early into Lonzo’s rookie season is that LaVar has put a giant bullseye on his son’s back— and it grows larger each time he opens his mouth.
The veterans will come at him harder than others, they say. Stars like Curry and LeBron James, direct targets of his verbal fire, as tough as anyone. Stephen A. Smith on ESPN First Take even warned that LaVar “has deposited checks” that Lonzo “is ill-equipped to cash.”
But adding pressure is the intent. We must remind ourselves that there is a method to the madness for the Ball patriarch. Opinions of his methods aside, LaVar wants Lonzo to be the best player he can possible be.
What better way to do that than have the world’s best go their hardest against your son, as it simultaneously teaches him to become immune to hate and criticism that comes with stardom along the way?
“Everything my dad does is definitely planned, so even if people think he’s crazy, he know’s what he’s doing,” Lonzo said in the premiere episode of the Balls’ Facebook reality series, ‘Ball In The Family.’
Example: LaVar knew exactly what the public reaction would be to his comments about the Washington Wizards.
Following LA’s Oct. 22 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, LaVar was told the Lakers were hosting the Wizards in their next game, the coming Wednesday.
“(Washington) better beware ‘cause Lonzo ain’t losing again!” LaVar told Ballislife. “Not in the same week!”
As one could’ve predicted, the Wizards were riled up. Marcin Gortat replied via Twitter saying John Wall will “torture” Lonzo for 48 minutes. Wall himself told The Washington Post that he would have “no mercy” against the rookie.
The Lakers would pull off the upset, 102-99, in OT. Despite a poor shooting performance (six points, 2-for-11 from the field), Lonzo had 10 assists and eight assists. But one victory, even after verbal jabs, isn’t of huge significance to the grand scheme of LaVar’s plan.
The motivated spirit another NBA player, or team, came with against Lonzo reaps the largest benefit for the long haul as he hopes to develop into an elite player.
“(Lonzo has) been dealing with (his father’s comments) his whole life,” Wall told ESPN. “It doesn’t bother him. It’s just new to everyone else.”
And by this point, it’s clear that the ex-UCLA standout has star potential.
He’s averaging 10.0 points, 7.7 assists and 7.5 rebounds through his first six NBA games— a small sample size, but indicative of triple-doubles to come. The fact he’s averaging double figure points on 31 percent shooting when he’s yet to find a consistent scoring rhythm is encouraging. A 29-point, 11-rebound, nine-assist outing in just his second game against the Phoenix Suns is even better.
Lonzo had the exact same emotionless demeanor in the Phoenix win as the Clippers loss in the season opener. He’s all business during the ups and the downs.
In the next couple weeks, the quality of guards he will face improves dramatically. The Trailblazers’ backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (Nov. 2), Mike Conley (Nov. 5) and Kyrie Irving (Nov. 8) loom on the immediate horizon. Surely, they’ll play motivated against the rookie, too. Especially if LaVar adds fuel to that fire with more controversial words.
But just remember that that’s the plan for Lonzo to be built to last— if he hasn’t become already.