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Alexander: No happy homecoming for Lonzo Ball in Lakers loss

By in Press Enterprise on October 5, 2017

By Jim Alexander

ONTARIO — So much for the hometown story.

The Lakers’ annual Ontario visit was supposed to be particularly special this year. Lonzo Ball, who attended high school about 15 miles from Citizens Business Bank Arena and who played at The Vault in high school playoff games, was expected to make his Inland Empire debut as a Laker against the Denver Nuggets.

But it was perfectly understandable why he didn’t.

After turning his left ankle Monday night against the Nuggets at Staples Center, he sat out practice Tuesday. Ball tested the ankle Tuesday afternoon, but the word came down about an hour before tipoff: No go.

Given Ball’s role in what the Lakers are trying to accomplish this year, it would have made absolutely no sense to play him, even in his old neighborhood, in a game that doesn’t count.

“My guess is, yeah, he would have played in a regular season game,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Marco (Nuñez, the team’s athletic trainer) told me he was out. We were prepping for the game, so I didn’t ask details such as what went into that decision.

“He said, when I saw him this morning, it felt better. I gotta go coach the guys who are playing, and if Marco tells me he’s good to go, then we throw him out there.”

Instead Ball was on the bench, in warmups rather than street clothes.

Come to think of it, Kobe Bryant did the same thing here four years ago, wearing warmups on the bench here even though he was unavailable because of knee issues.

That night, the fans chanted, “We want Kobe!” There was no such groundswell for Ball on Wednesday night, maybe because the fans were prepared for the possibility.

Then again, he’s still a rookie.

Yet this is unmistakably his team. If this precocious group is to contend for a […]    

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