Lakers’ Lonzo Ball gets vote of confidence from UCLA coach Steve Alford


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Lonzo Ball’s NBA career is still in its infancy, and his former college coach believes some of the criticism Ball has faced thus far is unwarranted.

UCLA coach Steve Alford was on hand to watch Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers in their 120-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night and came away impressed by the No. 2 overall pick’s defensive intensity. Alford told The Los Angeles Times that he can see Ball “really working at it” on the defensive end, adding that the rookie point guard’s offensive game will also blossom as the team gains trust in him as a facilitator.

“I just think he’s gotta get the ball. When he’s got the ball, he makes people around him better,” Alford told the newspaper. “Right now what’s being critiqued is his jump-shooting. That’s not who he is. He’s not a shooting guard.”

Ball is averaging 8.7 points, 7.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds and has already recorded two triple-doubles for the Lakers this season. But he is also averaging 2.7 turnovers per game and shooting a paltry 30.9% through 20 games.

Alford told The Times he believes Ball’s offensive growth will come as a byproduct of his passing. He said Ball’s rare passing talent will become contagious and lead to easier shots for everyone — Ball included.

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“When that trust happens, and he’s allowed to do those things, I think you’ll see teammates’ game go up, you’ll see passing, the joy of passing will go up in that organization,” Alford said. “And when that happens he’s going to get easier shots, and he’ll make those shots.”

Ball will face off against Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry for the first time Wednesday night at the Staples Center. Ball’s father, LaVar, has previously said that his eldest son is already a better player than the two-time MVP, though Curry shrugged off those comments and praised Lonzo Ball on Tuesday.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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