Last night was yet another date on the Lonzo Ball Debut Tour. This time, the opponent was John Wall and the Washington Wizards. And the build-up was bigger than you’d usually expect for an October game between two teams that face each other twice a year. People were freaking out over Wall saying that he’d show “no mercy” to Ball. OOOOOH, HE DID NOT GO THERE.
Well, actually, he pretty much didn’t, because he also said, “Certain matchups you really get up for. Like when you play [Steph [Curry], you definitely want to have a good game. I’m playing against [Ball]. [Gortat] said what he said about me. I didn’t say anything. His dad has been talking. … That makes me want to go out there and lead my team and play the best I can play.”
And play they did. John Wall: 18 points, 9 assists, 1 steal. Lonzo Ball: 6 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists. It wasn’t a street fight. They weren’t deeing each other up full court and getting each other’s grill after every play. So if you were expecting a crazy showdown, you didn’t get that.
Neither guy shot particularly well, in fact, pretty poorly to be honest, but if you were one of the few people in LA at that game and not watching the Dodgers, you were treated to a game that while it wasn’t as great as Game 2, was pretty damn good.
How good? Lakers 102, Wizards 99. In overtime. That’s a legit win for the Lakers against a contender in the East. How crazy is that?
Not only was that trash talk not a bad thing, it seems to have been a good thing for the Lakers. Just ask Luke Walton: “Our guys were more locked-in tonight. It shouldn’t be anything to do with [what Marcin Gortat and Wall said about Ball]. [But] I did [tell them] it is nothing personal but we defend each other. If people want to talk about our players, we should be offended and we should go into that game and telling ourselves that is not all right, and we are not going to stand for that, and we are not just going to [lay down] and let that happen.”
Not only is this Ball subplot not a distraction, it’s galvanizing the team. Incredible. And if I’m Luke Walton, I’m doing exactly what Walton did. Use it to your advantage. Get guys to rally around it instead of being irritated by it. That’s genius. This is the type of thing that could go incredibly sideways for Ball and the team, but so far Walton is managing it perfectly.
Think about it, he’s using the trash talk of one player’s father and the tweets of an opponent as motivation for a regular season game in October. And it’s working. That’s insane. Completely insane. That said, if I’m Luke, I’m not telling pops to keep running his mouth because it gives us fuel, but you know that’s going to happen anyway, so you might as well get as much out of it as you can. I’m not sure how long that can last, but you better believe that I’m squeezing as much out of it as possible.
And after facing Lonzo, Wall said: “He’s a quiet kid who doesn’t say too much. He’s been dealing with it (his dad) his whole life. It’s doesn’t bother him. It’s just new to everybody else. He’s very mature for his age. He can pass, can score the ball — he just wasn’t making shots tonight. We both wanted to play better.”
In other words, it seems like he came away impressed. Wall is an encyclopedia when it comes to basketball. He knows the game inside and out and he doesn’t throw around compliments lightly. Ball earned that and the Lakers earned that win.