Zion Williamson offers strong defense of Lonzo Ball, sounds off on critics

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Jacob Rude
·3 min read
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Lonzo Ball, like essentially everyone in his family, has been a divisive player not just during his time with the Pelicans but in the NBA as a whole. Only after Ball’s hot play over the last month has he begun to win over many of those that soured on him after Ball’s poor play in the bubble and slow start to the 2020-21 season.

Despite the fans coming around on Ball and him receiving more recognition of late, Ball’s teammates aren’t content. On JJ Redick’s “Old Man & the Three” podcast with Zion Williamson this week, the two talked about Ball’s improvement and the fan perception of him.

Redick: “..to me, I think he’s better than people realize. And some of that has to do with the hype coming out of college. Obviously, there were probably a few off-court distractions initially but he’s just figured it out. He’s gotten so much better as a shooter. He’s so disruptive defensively and, to me, he’s sort of the perfect fit for you and BI to play off of.”

Williamson: “I agree with that 100%. The thing with Lonzo, he’s improved on shooting. He’s improved on his defense. He’s improved as being a leader and being more vocal with everybody on the team. But fans only see one side of it. They see the social media side. Like Lonzo will go on a spurt where he’ll run off five incredible games of shooting and he’ll have a lot of assists and whatnot.

But then he’ll have one game as if nobody can have an off shooting night. He’ll have one game where he might go 2-for-10 or 2-for-8 and he may not have a high number of assists and (the fans are) like ‘Oh, Lonzo’s not doing this. He’s not being productive.’ And it’s just like where you all not there for previous seven to 10 games? Do those not exist? People just take the one game and run with it.”

Ball closing the first half of the regular season with a pair of poor outings is apropos to Williamson’s point. For now, the narrative on Ball has turned enough because of his strong regular season that there isn’t as much blowback on his poor play heading into the break.

That doesn’t change the overarching point from Williamson, though. Ball is a lightning rod for criticism when it comes to the Pelicans and often takes the brunt of the complaints from the fans, rightly and wrongly. One of the more encouraging aspects of the first half has been Ball becoming a fan favorite with his strong play, a drastic change.

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