Lonzo Ball played under a lot of pressure in his rookie season, and now that he’s set to make things happen with LeBron James, the second-year Laker guard has a bigger task ahead of him

By Klyde Manansala | Photo from Instagram

If you are the second overall draft pick, selected by one of the most iconic franchises in NBA history, and considered as a prodigy in the franchise, then expectations are high. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with, but we’re not discounting the fact that these were also created by an overly proud dad.

In a nutshell, this was Lonzo Ball’s rookie season as a Laker. He was on everyone’s radar not because he was a lottery pick but because of the noise his father LaVar made in the media. Ball was like a big walking question mark back then in which people were trying to figure out what he was really about and why his dad couldn’t stop declaring sentiments like “My son is better than Stephen Curry.”

“However, Ball just shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three. And those number will have to increase given the upturned expectations on the Lakers due to LeBron’s arrival

When your name is trumpeted like that before you can even prove yourself, you become an easy target, someone whom people will watch out for and have fun criticizing.

Pretty sure quite a lot of people can recall Ball’s very first NBA game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The kid went 1-of-6 in shooting, converting a lone three-pointer and racking up nine rebounds and four assists. Not incredible stats if we’re being honest. He struggled and was welcomed to the league by Patrick Beverley, a guy notorious for getting in his opponent’s head. Beverley swiped the ball from him like candy, shot the ball right on his face, endlessly taunted him, and made Ball’s rookie debut a wretched one. All because of LaVar.

Beverley fired back and didn’t make a flimsy promise.

An offseason full of anticipation spun into that poor performance, and people were quick to call him a “bust” and a “wasted pick” by the Lakers. Come his second game, the 6’6” guard looked as good as advertised after redeeming himself with 29 points, 11 boards, and nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Critics were silent and his father was back to his usual self that day. “He seemed fine, though? Kid’s got game!” And just like that, people started to root for him. Unfortunately, Ball had to sit out 30 games in his debut year because of a left knee injury. But in the 52 games he played, he still managed to average 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 7.2 dimes. A near triple-double average sure doesn’t look like something a bust can do, yes?

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However, Ball just shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three-point line. And those stats will have to improve due to LeBron’s arrival. There were video clips posted on the Lakers’ social media account that shows Ball’s back in the lab after having his meniscus removed. In the footage, one thing was so noticeable that’s worth discussing: Ball’s slightly fine-tuned shooting form. It looks like Ball adjusted his unorthodox side release, which garnered lots of chuckle from the critics.

The Lakers have also signed veteran floor general Rajon Rondo. His prime days may be over but the 32-year-old guard just had a retrieval season with the New Orleans Pelicans last year, giving them a huge lift to reach the playoffs. Besides, Rondo was discernibly tapped by the Lakers for one purpose: Inject team leadership and serve as Ball’s mentor.

Certainly, Ball is not the best rookie in his class—but nobody in that class had been thrust into a difficult role like Lonzo was. The Lakers is like a rebooting device, bound to complete the pieces that will bring back glory to their franchise. And Lonzo, along with the help of a potential superstar in Kyle Kuzma, had to play with a heavy load of expectations, which he surprisingly managed to surpass. Now, with LeBron and Rondo coming in, it’s not a far-cry to see the youngsters reach their full potential at such a young age.