Bresnahan: What's next for Ball?

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Lonzo Ball isn't known to fill up digital voice recorders with long-winded answers to reporters' questions.

He doesn't turn a lot of phrases, paint word pictures or rely much on allegory and metaphor. He once answered 51 questions in only eight minutes after a pre-draft workout with the Lakers.

True to his personality, he was succinct Sunday after another surprising loss to Orlando.

“Take one step back, go two steps forward,” was one of the things he said.

The last five years, it was seemingly always the opposite: Take one step forward, go two steps back.

Times have changed. Now the hand-wringing drops drastically after a Lakers loss.

Sunday's setback was more a reminder the Lakers usually lose because of their own faults, not an ominous talent difference.

They missed 11 free throws in the 108-104 loss to Orlando. Committed 14 turnovers in the first half. Lapsed twice on defense in the final minute.

Nobody was planning a championship parade after the Lakers won nine of 11 before Sunday's game. Their margin of error is still relatively small.

But in the good news department, that margin is much larger than the last several years. Those teams were clearly lacking in one department or another, be it a closer, shot-blocker, reliable long-distance shooter, whatever.

These Lakers aren't perfect. But sitting at 11-8 after a worrisome 2-5 start, it appears they'll have many more chances to take two steps forward than two steps back.

Thanks for the quote, Lonzo.

 

Three things to watch this week:

 

1) What's next for Ball?

He's so much less hesitant than he was just a week ago, a remarkable turnaround for someone who seemed so averse to driving the lane.

Each game is a different revelation these days for the 21-year-old. Sometimes he shows deceptive speed as he maneuvers with the ball after grabbing a defensive rebound. Other times he successfully converts on a series of drives.

A steady mainstay has been reliable defense, bringing to mind Rob Pelinka's comments at Ball's introductory press conference after the UCLA star was drafted. Ball could someday be a member of the NBA's All-Defensive team, the Lakers' general manager said.

Ball is on to something with his recent play. To paraphrase him, he's taking two steps forward and...you get the idea.

2) The Lakers beat Denver last month in one of their best victories this season.

LeBron James had his first (and only, so far) triple-double with the Lakers and Ball was impressive defensively with five steals.

The rematch will be a little tougher Tuesday in Denver.

The Nuggets are among the top teams in the unpredictably wild Western Conference. They're top five  in defensive rating and riding a three-game winning streak.

Should be a good one.

3) If the Lakers beat the Nuggets, a friendly home stretch awaits: Indiana, Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio. The Lakers will almost surely be favored in all four games.

Then again, the Lakers are a pedestrian 6-4 at home, the worst of any West team that would currently make the playoffs if the season ended now.