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Lakers using challenges to Lonzo Ball as rallying point

Lakers Suns Basketball

Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball (2) and forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns as guard Corey Brewer (3) and center Brook Lopez (11) watch, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)


LOS ANGELES — Patrick Beverley said of Lonzo Ball after the opener “(I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA” then added he warmed Ball other players were going to come at him hard. John Wall said he would show Ball “no mercy (which proved false, as Wall was flat and the Wizards’ lost). Lonzo’s father LaVar ball keeps on talking, keeps on writing checks with his mouth, and there are other big names on the horizon (Stephen Curry, LeBron James) who may not say much publicly but will bring an extra level of motivation into games against Los Angeles.

The Lakers are using that as a rallying point.

“It started at practice,” Lonzo said after the win. “Everybody bought into it getting ready for this game, and you could see it on the court. When we were guarding tonight, we were all playing for one another. No one was playing selfish, we weren’t leaving guys on islands. John Wall is one of the fastest point guards in all of the NBA, and you saw every time he had the ball, we had people on both sides of him. So, it was definitely a team effort tonight.”

Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said he used Wall’s comments (a response to LaVar’s comments) as motivation at shootaround — it’s highly unusual to have a players’ father’s comments be a topic of conversation at a shootaround. But Walton is finding motivation for his young team where he can, and he told them they need to stand up for each other on this team and rally around Ball.

It worked. For all their flaws, the Lakers played much harder than a Wizards team that Bradley Beal admitted postgame did not take the Lakers seriously. This Lakers team has talent — young talent that makes plenty of mistakes, but talent. Walton rode that talent down the stretch and into overtime with a young, small ball lineup, and it got Los Angeles the win.

Ball himself had 10 assists and made some plays, but was up and down in the game. He makes plays, but he’s got to work on being a bigger scoring threat. He was 2-of-11 shooting and 0-of-5 from three, and by the third quarter the Wizards were laying off Ball and daring him to shoot. Ball did a good job of absorbing that space and creating shots, but at some point he’s going to have to become a threat to score or his passing options will be limited. It’s part of the rookie learning process.