But when it comes to Lonzo Ball, I'll feel compelled to dish one out here.
Yes, taking the Clippers plus-7 on Friday night after the game opened 4 and got driven up by the fanatics, tourists or whoever else was silly enough to lay multiple possessions in an exhibition game gives me more bravado to do so. And sticking it up the arse of Ball's obnoxious and belligerent father is one more.
The Clippers beat the Lakers 96-93 in overtime at a packed Thomas & Mack Center Friday evening, and Lonzo shot just 2-of-15 from the floor and 1-for-11 from behind the three-point line. The lower bowl of the arena was sold out and Ball was a large reason behind the anticipation, as fans struggled through a Cleveland beatdown of Milwaukee in the game before the two LA teams tangled.
While Ball played good help defense and has superb court vision (the five assists he had Friday were not an accurate gauge of how many points he helped set up; if they were dishing out “hockey assists” then Ball would have had closer to 10), those are things you would expect out of a point guard – especially one drafted at No. 2.
But the on-ball defense against savvy Kendall Marshall was subpar at best. Marshall was never a speedster before his 2015 ACL tear so it was surprising to see him basically have his way with Ball when running the Clipper offense. Ball was unprepared on multiple off-ball screens and beaten off the dribble repeatedly. This forced the Lakers to rotate and help him, something that can't happen with a franchise point guard against the professional offenses that he'll see for as long as he's in the league.
More alarmingly for the Lakers, Ball was unable to penetrate. Even at UCLA, Ball mostly got to the rim only in transition and rarely in half-court sets. But even with the better spacing that he'll see in the NBA, his inability to attack and break down the defense off the dribble has to be concerning to Magic Johnson and the Lakers' executives.
The 3-point shot is going to be a big (Re)x-Factor in deciding whether Ball can be effective, especially if teams defend it the way the Clippers did Friday. Expect more of the same if he shoots so horribly going forward. The Clippers constantly decided to go under screens and give Ball several pull-up threes. Those were shots he made – and from NBA distance – at a pretty solid clip last season. Ball is unable to create anything if defenses go under on screens for himself or for teammates. His shooting form is atrocious, and because of that he'll always struggle to make anything pulling up off the dribble going to his right. If this novice eye can see that, you can be sure advance scouts saw it about halfway through last November watching a random highlight show with a UCLA game.
It's far too early to think Ball will always be a 9 percent three-point shooter, or that he'll only average five assists in an up-tempo offense as the lead guard. But it's fair to at least hold his feet to the fire after his initial summer outing. He'll have a minimum of four games in Las Vegas and perhaps the outings against Boston (sold out on Saturday night) and going forward will show that Ball belongs.
But what if he doesn't?
Those will be questions that can wait until November. But I'll be watching, and I won't be the only one.