Lakers: Lonzo Ball must outplay D’Angelo Russell to win over Laker fans

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 20: Lonzo Ball (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 20: Lonzo Ball (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Brooklyn Nets tonight in D’Angelo Russell’s first game back in LA. However, this game is most important for rookie Lonzo Ball.

9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists. That is what Lakers‘ rookie Lonzo Ball is averaging per game. 21.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists. That is what former Lakers’ — and current Nets’ — point guard D’Angelo Russel is averaging per game.

Ball may be the better playmaker, sure. Ball may have the eventual higher ceiling, sure. Heck, according to Magic Johnson, Ball may be the better leader, sure. While the culture in LA has changed since Ball arrived, one thing is for certain.

Lonzo Ball has not played with ice water in his veins.

The rookie point guard has shown flashes of brilliance, his best night coming on a 29 point, 11 rebound and nine assist night against the Phoenix Suns. Yes, he has changed the tempo of the offense and has made the Lakers a better passing unit.

However, for all the positives, one can also point to his scoreless night against the Trailblazers, his three-point night against the Los Angeles Clippers or his five-point night against the Toronto Raptors.

D’Angelo Russell has dropped 30 points twice, nearly three times with his 29-point game against the Orlando Magic. Sure, Ball is not a scorer like Russell. Ball is more green that Russell and Russell did only average 13.2 points per game his rookie season.

But all of that is forgotten. RIght now, Laker fans look at D’Angelo Russell and recognize he is the better option at point guard. Why couldn’t the Lakers have traded the pick for an established star, especially if the plan moving forward is to acquire superstars?

Quite frankly, although trading Russell does allow the Lakers to free cap space in Brook Lopez, the only good thing out of that deal was the draft rights to Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma is already the more popular rookie and arguably has been the better rookie.

All of that can change Friday night. Sports’ fans have short-term memory. More often than not, the most recent performance of a player dictates his worth. That is why after game one Ball was a bust, but after game two he was a superstar.

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To finally cement himself as a Laker, Ball has to go out and have a huge night against Russell. You already know Russell is looking for redemption, and likely will seek another 30-point night. Ball may never be able to match that scoring, but what he can match is his efficiency. This is the perfect night for Ball to get his first triple-double, winning over the crowd in the process.

A win is necessary as well. As a point guard, Ball has taken responsibility for the team’s wins and losses. Even if he goes 20-10-10, without a win, it means nothing. Not only does Ball need to outplay Russell, the Lakers must win.

If not, Ball is going to hear those same criticisms multiplied. The bust talks will start. The comparisons to D’Angelo Russell will continue. Most importantly, and unfortunately, Ball will lose the fans that he is already trying to desperately win over.

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Lonzo Ball is going to need a huge night over D’Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets. If he can’t supply that, the fan base is going to let him hear their displeasure.