With 7:48 left in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Wednesday loss to the 76ers, Lonzo Ball set his feet and jacked up a three that careened off the backboard, off the front of the rim and into J.J. Redick’s hands.
Ball picked off the following outlet pass and dribbled up to the left wing — his sweet spot — before chucking up another three that smacked off the far left side of the rim, like an errant field goal, into Redick’s hands once again.
In all, Ball finished Wednesday night with two points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field and 0-of-6 shooting from three. In his 21 minutes on the floor, the Lakers were outscored by 18 points. Luke Walton subbed Ball out in favor of Jordan Clarkson at the four-minute mark of the third quarter and never put him back in the game.
Through 15 games, the Lakers’ rookie is averaging just nine (9!) points on 30 percent shooting from the field and 22.9 percent shooting from three. That’s the least efficient start of any player ever through the first 15 games of a season since 1963, according to Basketball-Reference.
That’s also not the kind of stat line the Lakers want to see from the player they drafted No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, the player they moved on from D’Angelo Russell for, and the player expected to lead the franchise for the next two decades.
But no matter how many brick houses Ball builds with his three-point attempts and subsequent misses, no matter how many times Walton pulls him in favor of another scorer, and no matter how many times Lakers social media explodes after its prized rookie misses shot after shot, he should never, ever stop shooting.
Ball was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft in no small part because of his scoring ability. The Chino Hills, Calif. native averaged 14.6 points on 55-percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent shooting from downtown at UCLA making dynamic offensive plays for himself like this:
If collegiate competition wasn’t enough, Ball went on to claim Summer League MVP after averaging 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and a block per game. He even made Summer League history as the only player ever to go off for 30 points and 10 assists in a game, and he did it in front of LeBron James.
Yes, Ball may be off to one of the worst shooting starts in NBA history. But Russell Westbrook also got off to a tough shooting start through the first 15 games of his career. It’s safe to say he panned out a success. Jason Kidd started the 2001-02 season a 33.3-percent shooter from the field and finished at 39.1 percent, garnering MVP consideration along the way.
The list goes on. Players get off to rough shooting starts and bounce back all the time. Just ask Kobe Bryant, who detailed why he would never stop shooting if he was cold.
Gotham Chopra, the director of "Kobe Bryant's Muse", an upcoming documentary on Bryant, told a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play. Recounts Chopra, "Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, 'Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?' Kobe was like, 'I would go 0-for-30 before I would go 0-for-9. 0-for-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself.'"
Ball told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that his shooting struggles are in his head; that he knows he can shoot the ball. He’s averaging 4.9 attempted threes a game and hitting an average of only 1.1. And that’s just fine.
Because shooters don’t stop shooting; they keep shooting. And as long as Lonzo Ball has that confidence in himself, and Walton doesn’t lose confidence in his rookie, those shots will eventually fall.