The Los Angeles Lakers got their point guard of the future in the 2017 NBA Draft, selecting former UCLA star Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick.
Now, Ball will try to lead a Laker turnaround before reinforcements come on the free-agent market (perhaps Paul George and LeBron James?) next summer.
Though Ball won the Summer League MVP award and has been working with his teammates all summer, Tuesday marked the Lakers' first official practice of the 2017-18 season.
Speaking with DailyNews.com, Ball said he was surprised by the physicality of the NBA practice as compared to the ones he went through at UCLA, but added that everyone was simply excited to officially kick off the season:
“Everybody was anxious to get out there and get it all started,” he said, “so that’s probably the only difference. Guys were still working hard.”
Ball will have a lot of pressure on him this fall, as a slow start will have naysayers jumping all over him. However, it sounds like he's already earning the trust of his teammates and will be a key part of the Lakers' young core of star players.
Ball said Tuesday's practice had a great atmosphere and he and his teammates were excited to get on the court together once again to try to lead a Los Angeles turnaround:
“You could see the smiles,” Ball said. “Everybody was ready to get after it. Even after the stretch from this morning, everybody was ready to go.”
After putting up a disappointing 26-56 record last season (the third-worst record in the NBA), the team seems to be trending in the right direction this offseason, but there could still be some rough times ahead.
Ball said he expects this year's squad to post a better record than last year's and said the team has a great chemistry already after working so hard together during Summer League and during other summer workouts:
“I think the workouts in the summer kind of put the foundation there,” Ball said. “Obviously you can get better and work on stuff, but definitely (already) got a feel for each other.”
The Lakers have a long road ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs this year, as the Golden State Warriors rein supreme and the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers, among others, look to be legitimate playoff contenders. With only eight postseason spots available, the Lakers may have to wait at least one more year before returning to the playoffs.