Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball named summer league MVP

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

LAS VEGAS --Lonzo Ball was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League before he sat out Monday's championship game due to a calf injury.

The Los Angeles Lakers' second overall pick took home the honor after averaging 16.3 points, a summer league-leading 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

The Lakers kept their prized rookie on the sideline against thePortland Trail Blazers after Ball suffered a mild calf strain in his right leg in the third quarter of Sunday's semifinal win over the Dallas Mavericks. In Ball's absence, rookie forward Kyle Kuzma finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds and won the championship game's MVP honors, while leading the Lakers to a 110-98 victory over the Blazers.

Ball already had shown summer league voters plenty. Joining Ball on the summer league first team were Atlanta's John Collins, Phoenix's Josh Jackson, Dallas' Dennis Smith Jr. and Portland's Caleb Swanigan.

New Orleans' Cheick Diallo, San Antonio's Bryn Forbes, Kuzma, Memphis'Wayne Selden Jr.and Boston's Jayson Tatum earned second-team honors.

Ball said the team held him out on Monday for precautionary reasons and that his calf injury is "minor." Also as a precaution, the Lakers shut down last year's second overall pick, Brandon Ingram, after the swingman suffered a cramp at the end of regulation in Los Angeles' opening game.

Lakers summer league coach Jud Buechler pointed out how Ball won summer league MVP despite not playing in all of the Lakers' eight games. Ball missed one game with a groin injury and another game with his calf injury.

"He was just incredible," Buechler said. "He really was. Really happy for him to get the MVP. One of the most impressive things is he missed two games and only played half of one game and still got the MVP. He really creates the environment where when one of your top players is sharing the ball like that, it's just contagious with everybody else."

Lakers coach Luke Walton echoed the sentiment.

"Lonzo definitely gave the team a lot of confidence as this thing went along," Walton said. "The way he plays, he's always got his poise about him, just an incredible basketball player. And with the unselfish nature he plays the game, it just becomes contagious, and I think other guys started picking up and playing off of that."

Ball is the third top-two draft pick to be named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League, joining Blake Griffin (2009) and John Wall (2010).

There was no point in risking further injury to Ball, who had two triple-doubles and four games with 10 or more assists. No other rookie in Las Vegas Summer League history has had more than one game with 10 assists, and no other rookie has ever had a triple-double, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

Ball created a stir during summer league with his choice of shoes for each game. He wore his Big Baller Brand shoes in the first two games, before playing in Kobe Bryant Nikes, James Harden Adidas,Stephen CurryUnder Armours and then a pair of Air Jordan XXXIs on Sunday.

But what really had several executives and coaches around the league buzzing were Ball's "elite" passing, vision and point guard play.

One area in which Ball struggled was perimeter shooting. He shot just 10-of-42 from 3-point range, though he hit his first two 3s and was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc before getting hurt on Sunday.

LaVar Ball said in a radio interview on Monday on Mornings with Keyshawn, Jorge and LZ on ESPN LA 710 thathis son doesn't need to adjust his shooting form.

"Oh, ain't nobody tinkering with his shot. He's going to shoot the same way, comfortable, like I said, who cares about his shot," LaVar said.

"Here's the thing: He missed a lot of shots in the first few games. They act like the percentage is going to stay there. He'll go about four or five games where he'll go 4-for-5, 6-for-8. It will catch up with him. So it's not a big deal. And it'll come out to a percentage where he's always been: in the high 40s."

Ball's best scoring game of the summer league was a 36-point, 11-assist, eight-rebound performance against thePhiladelphia 76ers. But more than anything else, Ball turned heads with his passing. Several of his assists came on full-court or three-quarter-court passes that led to easy transition dunks or layups.

"We are in a league right now that is kind of dominated by scoring point guards," Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said before Ball suffered the calf injury. "And there's some great ones -- don't get me wrong. But to kind of have this young kid come along, 19 years old, he is really changing the way point guards play with pass first, getting your teammates going first. It is amazing to watch. We feel like the way he's playing can really transform our whole team."

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