Lonzo Ball off Lakers' injury report, says 'strength' may be biggest test

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. -- Lonzo Ball is off the Los Angeles Lakers' injury report and has no health-minutes restrictions heading into the season opener against the LA Clippers on Thursday night.

The first test for Ball will be making the adjustment toward playing against "grown men" such as Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.

"Just the strength," Ball said of what could be his biggest challenge now that the season starts. "It's grown men now, so every night, night in, night out, they going to be strong."

"I have been watching the NBA for a long time, [Beverley] definitely picks up full court and plays hard. It is going to be a lot of fun. He is going to go at me, I am going to go at him and it is going to be that."

"They are going to come after him, it's what people in this league do," head coach Luke Walton said after shootaround Thursday. "They come after young players, and when there's young players with a lot of media and hype around them, they really come after them. They want to set a tone and he will see it all year long. I think [Lonzo] knows that and he will be expecting it and as the season goes, he will learn from it and learn how best to handle and succeed with it."

Ball played in just two preseason games after spraining his left ankle. But he returned to practice in the past few days and will make his much-anticipated debut. The rookie also said he will be wearing his Big Baller Brand Zo2 Prime Remix shoes after mixing up what he wore during the preseason between his brand and Nike.

The Lakers are excited to see what their franchise point guard can do healthy.

"Obviously, it is going to be a big learning curve -- he has never played in this type of game before where the guards and the players are this good and this strong and he is going against grown men, a team full of them," Walton said Wednesday. "I think he will be fine. I think he will rise to the challenge like he has his whole life."

"We had him around all summer and we started to see who he was, he just keeps showing more and more of what can make him really special," Walton added. "When he is on the court, his team is better, the ball is moving, they are getting good shots, he is in control, he loves the moment, he hits big shots and it is just good to see it happen more and more and it is more of who he is rather than random coincidence."

Ball had said at the start of camp that he probably will have a target on his back with all the attention surrounding the rookie this offseason. Walton -- who said he may keep Ball's minutes to between 30 and 35 minutes due to the research on how to keep their young players healthy and not because of Ball's recent ankle injury -- expects Beverley, one of the best defenders in the league, to hound Ball.

"Do what works," Ball said of how he will adjust if Beverley is blanketing him. "I can't see the future, so I don't know how it's going to happen, just know he's going to play hard."

Ball said the most progress he has made in his game in camp is his "mental" game.

"NBA's a lot different from college, there's a lot more terminology, a lot more stuff," Ball said. "You've got the 2.9 seconds in the key, different types of coverages on ball screens, so it's real detailed. So definitely helped a lot."

Ball said his family will be well represented in the stands for his debut.

"It is going to be a lot of fun," Ball said. "Just do everything I can to help the name on my jersey get a win and take it one game at a time."

Another area Ball knows he will need to adapt to in his rookie season is the physical grind of an 82-game season and how his body will hold up. After only playing in two preseason games due to an ankle injury, Ball said he will see what kind of shape he is in.

"We will find out tonight, tonight is the first test, the first real game," Ball said after the team's shootaround on Thursday. "I will tell you [how it felt] after the game."

Ball said Lakers president Magic Johnson has been giving him pointers in practice and how to approach the regular season.

"He's been giving me a couple of tips when watching practice, just basically pick up, get over screens and hit the open guy," Ball said. "He said stay focused, play for the team and just go out and play as hard as you can."

On Thursday morning, Ball was asked if he slept the same as he usually does on the night before his professional debut.

"I sleep the same every night," the point guard replied.

Asked if he ever puts too much pressure on him before the night of a big game, Ball said, "Nah, you got to get good dreams in, you know?"