Lonzo Ball Struggles But Lakers Are Forgiving

It was obvious that Lonzo Ball was nervous.

However, no one could tell when the most-hyped NBA rookie of this era and his teammates prepared for their season debut.

By the time the night was over, with Ball’s first game ending with a 108-92 loss against the Clippers in he had one three-pointer, nine rebounds, and four assists while spending the duration of the evening at the bullying hands of the preeminent pest Pat Beverley. Ball had every reason in the book to sweat his new-found spotlight.

Magic Johnson, the legend that targeted the young and bright UCLA phenomenon in the June draft, knew that this would be the case no matter what team they opened the season with.

“He’s nervous,” Johnson, who runs the Lakers’ front office with general manager Rob Pelinka, had told USA TODAY Sports before tip-off. “But he has a demeanor where you don’t know he’s nervous. But tonight, he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

Sort of like Johnson did 38 years before — only different.

When Magic Johnson made his debut against the Clippers in San Diego on October 12, 1979 a game in which the 20-year-old from Lansing, Mich., found Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a game-winning skyhook that sparked their storied time together, there was a level of interest and electricity that was unmatched for that time. But there was no Lavar Ball-type figure in Johnson’s story, an entrepreneurial father who inspired so much of the anticipation and scrutiny with endless bold claims about his son’s talents. What’s more, as Johnson noted, there was no instant-reaction society surrounding him back then.