Lonzo Ball came into the 2020-21 NBA season knowing that he had a lot to prove. He said this much in interviews where he essentially put the rest of the league on notice.
Why was Ball putting so much pressure on himself this year? Well, despite handsomely rewarding Brandon Ingram with a max deal earlier in the year, the New Orleans Pelicans seemed resistant to locking their 23-year-old point guard up long-term.
The trepidation is not without merit. Ball, when he is playing well, is a notable talent. But he comes with his fair share of drawbacks as well. The offensive inconsistency is a matter of public record at this point – but that can presumably be fixed to some degree by good coaching. Of far greater concern is his injury proneness.
At one point, Ball suggested that the reputation he built with the Los Angeles Lakers for being constantly hurt was the byproduct of his terrible Big Baller Brand shoes. Since then, he has switched kicks – yet the injuries have persisted. Through 18 games this year he has already missed three of his team’s outings. Over the course of the past four years he has never come close to playing a full healthy season.
Between Ball’s inconsistent play and injury prone nature, it’s understandable that New Orleans is hesitant to commit to him long-term. And with free agency looming, chatter regarding a trade centering around Ball has kicked into overdrive.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ reaction to Jordyn Woods’ Buss It video speaks for itself.
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 26, 2021
Last week, five teams were suggested as potential suitors for Ball’s services – including the Los Angeles Clippers.
This week, Ball was asked about the incessant trade speculation that had been following him around over the past few days.
While he acknowledged that he heard the rumors, Ball refused to let them get to him.
“I just stay the course,” Ball replied, per ESPN. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. I put a lot of work in and just try to play my game. That’s how I play. I just try to stay away from all the noise and just go out there and try to help my team win games.”
Now we know what motivates Gronk to play so hard. https://t.co/xFnKnjoXQ4
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 24, 2021
Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy echoed that sentiment.
“Nobody likes distractions, but you have distractions all the time,” he told ESPN. “It’s trade rumors, it’s COVID, it’s family, whatever it is. Other voices. There’s always distractions, and a big part of being successful in this league is being able to block out distractions and being able to do your job.”
Obviously the Pelicans are considering trading Ball. There’s a reason these rumors are out there. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But for the time being, the 23-year-old isn’t going to allow it to influence how he plays – and that’s pretty much the most you could ask for from a player in this sort of situation.