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Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball gestures after dunking during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball will start his NBA career Thursday against the crosstown Clippers, and his head coach thinks there will be a target on his back.

“They’re going to come after him,” Luke Walton said, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. “That’s what people in this league do. They come after young players, and when there’s young players a lot of media and a hype around them, they really come after them.”

Ball enters the league with far more fanfare than the typical rookie—even the ones who attended powerhouse basketball programs such as his UCLA.

His father, LaVar, has been a primary talking point throughout the basketball world since his son laced it up for the Bruins thanks to his outlandish statements and constant readiness to be in front of a camera. What’s more, the entire Ball family has been on their Ball in the Family reality show, further exposing the Lakers rookie to the public eye.

Things won’t be easy from the start with a matchup against Patrick Beverley.

“If any players are going to try to make a statement against Ball, you might expect it to be Beverley, a first-team all-defensive guard and an all-word annoyance whose own path to the NBA was a far cry from that of Ball,” Oram wrote.

As if matching up with Beverley wasn’t enough, Walton said the sprained ankle Ball suffered on Oct. 2 has impacted his conditioning.

Still, it’s not as if Ball doesn’t have the talent to back up the hype. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft after he led UCLA to the Sweet 16 with his steady control of the game’s pace, impressive passing skills and shooting ability.

He tallied 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals a night in his one collegiate season and won the Las Vegas Summer League MVP before preseason. Now it’s time to see if he can deliver when the games count in the standings.


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