LOS ANGELES — Much has been said of Lonzo Ball’s court vision – the way he makes passes no one else sees, the way he’s multiple plays ahead of everyone else on the court, the way he throws ahead to his streaking teammates in any situation for layups in transition.
But in the past two weeks, Ball has proven he’s more than just an elite passer, even though he’s only a 20-year-old rookie. He’s been rebounding at a high rate, en route to two triple-doubles in the last nine days.
His most recent came in a 127-109 win Monday night against the Denver Nuggets. He had 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds, and became only the second Lakers rookie to have more than one triple-double in a season. The first? Magic Johnson.
His 16 rebounds on Monday were the most by a rookie guard since 2000. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds per game, which ranks 41st in the entire NBA. LeBron James is 34th, at 7.8 rebounds per game.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton said at Monday’s practice that he thinks Ball is an effective rebounder because of the way he sees the game and his desire to win.
“I think he attacks the rebound for where it’s going,” Walton said. “He’s not waiting for the ball to come to him. He goes and gets it and understands angles and gets up off the ground pretty well when he’s doing those things. But I think most of it is just his anticipation of where a ball is going.”
Ball, who averages the second-most boards on the team, said he’s often in prime position to pick up rebounds because the big men for the Lakers are boxing out their man, giving him a free path to the ball.
Growing up, Ball didn’t model his game after any player, even though he’s said before that he watched film of Johnson as a kid. Instead, Ball’s rebounding comes from playing with his brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, and his dad, LaVar.
“I was kind of forced to rebound at a young age,” Ball said. “I was usually in the back of the press of the 2-3 zone because my brothers were smaller than me. So I usually got most of the rebounds.”
Walton said associate head coach Brian Shaw challenged Ball to focus on his rebounding in an effort to get himself going during games. The emphasis on that part of his games seems to be doing the trick.
“Yeah I guess it shows you’re more engaged just because you’re going after the ball,” Ball said. “So, like I said, it definitely helps the offense, it helps me get more into the game. So any time I can get the rebound, I try to get it. I’ve proven I can rebound. When I’m not rebounding, it’s kinda like I’m out just there floating around.”
Ball has somewhat of a green light to pursue defensive rebounds because he’s so talented at it, Walton said. But when it comes to crashing the offensive boards, the Lakers coaches reign him in a bit more.
“Offensively, we still want him back,” Walton said. “He’s a really good offensive rebounder, too, so we’ve give him some freedom to crash the glass. But if it looks like there’s no opening for it, then we expect him to be the first man back and defending our transition defense.”