Why Lonzo’s Triple-Double Matters
Lonzo Ball’s first triple-double might mean nothing to him since the team lost but it means everything to the Lakers’ future
Asked about replacing LeBron James as the youngest NBA player to post a triple-double, Lonzo Ball delivered his standard reply whenever his team loses. “I don’t really care. We took a loss so it really doesn’t mean nothing.”
While Lonzo’s triple-double might mean nothing to him, it means everything for the Lakers’ future. There’s never been a more hyped or hated rookie in NBA history than Lonzo Ball. The Lakers’ 20-year old point guard, who was compared to Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd before the draft, has struggled mightily to shoot in his first twelve games, averaging just 8.9 points per game while shooting a league worst 29.2% from the field and 22.0% from deep.
Last night, faced with a flood of negative tweets and posts labeling him as a bust and loser, Lonzo showed everyone his mental toughness and resilience by delivering his best game as a pro on the road against one of the league’s top defenses. Lonzo posted his first NBA triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebound along with 4 blocks, 3 steals, and a team best +/- of 10 as the Lakers fell to Giannis Antetokounpo and the Bucks 98–90.
Most importantly, Lonzo broke out of his shooting slump, hitting 7–11 from the field and 3–4 from deep (disregarding a half-court heave at the buzzer). His shot selection was great and he made the Bucks pay for going under screens as he splashed three early 3-pointers to keep the Lakers in the game. Lonzo shot from deep and attacked and finished at the rim with confidence, ending the first half just 4 rebounds short of his first NBA triple-double.
But Lonzo himself would tell you his game is not about shooting. It’s about passing and creating a team culture and chemistry that values sharing and moving the ball and playing selflessly. It’s about team stats, not individual stats. Most of all, it’s about winning, which is why Lonzo really doesn’t care about his individual stats or the fact that, at 20-years old, he just replaced LeBron James as the youngest NBA player ever to post a triple-double.
Nor is Lonzo’s impact limited to the offensive end of the game. After his first 13 games, Lonzo Ball ranks 3rd among rookies with 5.7 defensive rebounds per game, 3rd with 1.3 steals per game, 4th with 1.8 blocks per game, 5th with 7.7 contested shots per game, 7th with 1.9 deflections per game, and 8th with 0.8 loose balls recovered per game. In fact, Lonzo’s defensive rating of 101.1 through his first 13 games was 5th best among rookie guards.
Why Lonzo’s superb game and triple-double against the Bucks matters is it shows Lonzo hasn’t lost his confidence and is learning and adjusting quickly to the challenges of a 20-year old boy playing against grown men in the NBA. It also shows Lonzo can deal with the immense pressure heaped on him by his father and the Lakers’ front office. Finally, it gives Lonzo’s fans a glimpse of future greatness and his haters more valid reasons to doubt their position.
While Lakers fans are still dreaming about the playoffs, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are dreaming about next summer and their grand plan to sign two elite free agents. The Lakers need Lonzo to become the superstar they need to attract LeBron James and Paul George to don the purple and gold. They need him to show prospective elite free agents that he is ready to lead the Lakers to a championship next year, not 3 to 5 years in the future.
Lonzo Ball’s first triple-double might mean nothing to him since the team lost but it means everything to the Lakers’ future as Lonzo needs to show this year that he’s a star and not a bust. Being the very first player to record 19 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals in an NBA game is a great start.