<
>

Lonzo Ball thrills and then gives Lakers a scare

play
Ball, Lakers fall to 0-2 in preseason (1:06)

In his first preseason game at Staples Center, Lonzo Ball plays 21 minutes and scores eight points but heads to the locker room early in the Lakers' 113-107 loss to the Nuggets. (1:06)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Lonzo Ball thrilled before giving the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans a little scare during his Staples Center debut on Monday night.

In his second preseason game as a Laker, Ball landed on Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay's foot and suffered a mild left ankle sprain after he blocked a shot from behind just before halftime.

The No. 2 overall pick got his ankle taped and started the second half but ended up leaving the bench and starting treatment during the fourth quarter with the Nuggets up by double digits. The Lakers and Ball said they will wait to see how his ankle feels on Tuesday morning before deciding his status for practice. The Lakers play next on Wednesday against Denver in Ontario, Calif.

“Sprained ankle, I’ll be alright,” Ball said after the Lakers’ 113-107 loss to Denver. “… If I can play [on Wednesday], I am going to play bottom line.”

Wearing Nike Kobe A.D. shoes instead of the Big Baller Brand ZO2 Prime Remix that he donned in his preseason opener, Ball got off to a good start before his injury and finished with eight points, four assists, three rebounds, one block and one steal as the Lakers lost their second straight preseason game. Ball also had four turnovers.

The most important thing for the Lakers is that their rookie is fine and didn't suffer a more serious injury. The Lakers may opt to play it safe and hold Ball out when they play Denver again. Forward Larry Nance Jr. also left Monday's game with a sprained right index finger and his status also remains to be seen.

Head coach Luke Walton said the team would know more on Tuesday but he did not initially think that the injuries were serious.

“I got a little nervous when I saw him go down,” Walton admitted when asked about seeing Ball land awkwardly. “I don’t like to do that but it was my natural reaction… hopefully when he wakes up in the morning it is not too sore. It is not because I really want to win the next game, I just know that if you can’t practice and he can’t be out there on the court, the way we want to play it is going to slow down that process.”

Before Ball had the scare, he kept trying to push the pace like he always does and he even displayed his vertical. In a rare moment when he was on the receiving end of an alley-oop, the point guard started a fast break with a give-and-go to Jordan Clarkson, who lobbed it to Ball. The rookie threw down an impressive two-handed dunk with his head nearly at the rim.

“That is the first time I caught one on this team,” Ball said of the alley-oop. “But I feel as time goes on, I will catch a lot more.”

Team president Magic Johnson got up and gave a nearby fan a high-five as Staples Center got its first big Ball highlight. Ball started his night by scoring on a driving layup while being fouled to convert a three-point play early in the first quarter.

Ball also hit a step-back 3-pointer as Walton talked to his point guard about being more aggressive in looking for his shot and not being too unselfish.

“It is a great problem to have,” Walton said. “Not that we want him to score 20 points a night but because it will open up everything else for him. All his passing lanes will get bigger with scoring. It will just make the game easier.”

Although Ball attempted to block another shot immediately after landing on Mudiay’s foot, the point guard walked gingerly during stoppage in play before going back to the bench and locker room before the end of the half. Ball said he wanted to play in the second half in an effort to reduce the pain in his ankle the next day. He played a total of five minutes after the injury and missed one shot while having an assist in the second half.

Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma continued to give the Lakers a spark off the bench, scoring in double figures for the second straight game and finishing with a team-high 23 points. The Lakers still have work to do, though, especially on defense. The Nuggets made 15 of 29 3s (51.7 percent), with shooting guard Gary Harris leading all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting and making five of seven 3s.