EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Magic Johnson believes Lonzo Ball is ready for a “breakout season” with the Los Angeles Lakers after the point guard tweaked his shooting form and spent time in the weight room and film room this offseason.
Although the team will play it safe and keep Ball out of five-on-five contact when training camp starts Monday, Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, says Ball has made visible progress physically and mentally and with a slightly revamped shot.
Entering his second year, Ball is making his way back from arthroscopic left knee surgery on his torn meniscus.
In a recent video posted by the Lakers, Ball demonstrated a more straight-on shooting form with a slightly more centered set point. Previously, he would bring the ball over more to his left side.
Johnson said it was Ball’s decision to alter his form after shooting just 36 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from 3-point range last season.
“We didn’t want to bother him [his shot],” Johnson said Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility. “I think he decided to do that on his own.”
Johnson explained that Ball didn’t alter his motion as much as where he sets and releases his shot; he now brings the ball a bit more in front of him and straight away, with his follow-through also more out in front of him.
“And, man, it is beautiful,” Johnson said.
“We explained that this is going to be the most important offseason and while he could be on the court, his shot looked great. He is going to be ready to have a breakout season and build on what he did last season, because it was only a couple of things he had to do better, and that was driving to the basket, finish and get the midrange in terms of getting his shot where he is on balance. It is not his shot. He just has to be on balance… I am excited for Lonzo, and he is going to be fine.”
General manager Rob Pelinka, who was a shooter when he played at the University of Michigan, has had conversations with Ball about shooting.
“I think his shot looks incredible,” Pelinka said. “He was here every day. He was one of the most committed guys this offseason. … The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.
“One of the things about his college metrics is he was an outstanding 3-point shooter,” Pelinka added of Ball, who shot 41.2 percent from 3-point range in one season at UCLA. “With this team, with so many different ball-handlers, I think that’s a strength for him. If he pushes it ahead to someone and runs and fills a spot, and he’s a catch-and-shoot player, he’s going to have the ability, I think, to be a good shooter.”
After missing 30 games because of injuries in his rookie season, Ball was asked to add muscle to become more durable. The Lakers also wanted to see him work on his offensive game, such as driving and finishing and improving his mid-range game and free throw shooting.
For the most part, Ball was only able to be in the weight room, staying off the court for much of the start of the offseason as he tried to treat his meniscus injury. He also tried platelet-rich plasma injections before opting to have surgery in mid-July.
Ball did request to have film sessions with Johnson and also sat in on a recent film study with Johnson, Pelinka and Rajon Rondo.
“The good thing about Lonzo is he started early, he was in the weight room,” Johnson said. “He put in the time. And then the one thing we were really blown away with was he wanted to watch film. It can’t be us asking him to do that. He had to want it for himself and he wanted to watch film with me and Rob and we had three or four sessions. He is starting to understand that he has to be better and he understood that right after the season.”