Kobe Bryant: Pressure on Lonzo Ball 'Inconsequential'

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Ball is humble by nature, so it's not surprising that he didn't even know James said anything about him.

James was going to watch the finish to the Knicks' 113-109 win over the Cavs' next opponent - the Lakers and their lightning rod rookie Lonzo Ball - before he would comment on the Cavs' night.

Before putting on the tin-foil hats and thinking this game is an audition for Ball to determine whether James will join him and the Lakers next season, realize this is a highly touted rookie with above-average court vision and a below-average jump shot leading a very young team against arguably the greatest player of all time and a veteran-savvy team trying to reach the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.

There are moments when Ball shows the talent that brought him to this point. Lonzo would go on to score only two more points in the rest of regulation and overtime, knocking down two of three free throws on a questionable foul call.

This, perhaps, is the only way it ever was going to go for Ball, drafted No. 2 overall, expected to replace Bryant as the face of the franchise and get the Lakers deep into the playoffs sooner than later.

"It was the best thing, man", he said. "He's young just like me".

Ball and Bryant have had no such conference and Ball seems to be in no rush. I think he's handled himself very well.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton talks to rookie guard Lonzo Ball on Tuesday night
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton talks to rookie guard Lonzo Ball on Tuesday night

And every game, Ntilikina just gets better. A Lakers insider said the main message to Ball was that they've tried to keep their relationship positive, while still allowing him to speak his mind, and they'd prefer he did the same. "I'm just playing. As I said, it's pretty cool to get cool stats and so on but I'm just doing what I can to help the team win".

It stands to reason, however, that Bryant would be drawn to Kuzma and that Ball would be more interested in learning from James. "And he gives the ball up, and he passes the ball, and there's energy behind the ball". The press is going to make it out like I'm trying to demean them or they're trying to demean me. That's a special quality. Zo obviously is not a superstar yet, but he has that same mindset of when he's playing, he doesn't care if it's him scoring or someone else scoring.

LaVar Ball reacts after a basket by his son Lonzo Ball of the Lakers during a game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. He probably can easily go out for 50 every night but focuses on his team, getting triple-doubles and [getting] guys involved.

"I don't know what he's personally going through".

It's a little surreal for Ball, who had James' poster on his wall growing up and who owned James jerseys from both Miami and Cleveland. Absolutely. The kid can play ball. That's what I try to do. "Much respect to him, and all the best moving forward".

Ball has never met James, even though the future Hall of Famer sat courtside for one of his games at the Las Vegas Summer League and sent a tweet wishing him a happy birthday in November. When we were lining up for the anthem, I looked over at Frank and said, 'Are you ready to go?' He said, 'I'm ready. James then added: "He can talk about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me".

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