“I am not saying it is not fair [to make the comparison], but it is too early,” the Milwaukee Bucks coach told ESPN.com by telephone in an interview about Ball. “People are talking about Rookie of the Year; we are already talking about awards [for Ball]. But it is really early and we are 12 games into this. We are jumping the gun a little bit. Let’s enjoy and watch this young kid play and then we will make the comparison at 40 games [or more].
“Let him get some games under his belt. I truly think he is talented. Today we want everything microwaved, we want it overnight or we want it Googled. We want to see the answer now.”
On Saturday, Ball and the Lakers face Kidd and his Bucks in Milwaukee for the first time this season. Ball has naturally drawn comparisons to the future Hall of Fame point guard because of the rookie’s pass-first mentality, his passing ability and flashy full-court passes, his ability to rebound as a bigger point guard and his court vision. Kidd was also an elite defender, and his peers often put his desire to win, leadership and competitiveness among the all-time greats.
Ball, 20, has a long way to go before he lives up to comparisons to Kidd, who was an NBA champion, a 10-time All-Star, five-time first-team All-NBA performer, five-time assists leader, three-time All-Defensive selection and Co-Rookie of the Year in 1994-95.
“I’m just grateful for it,” Ball said of some likening his game to Kidd’s. “He’s a legend. That’s enough said.”
“He was just very fun to watch,” Ball added. “Went out there and competed every night and a triple-double threat all the time.”
There are similarities between the two, who are both from California and were prep and college stars in the state before being drafted second overall in their drafts.
One thing the two also share is their early struggles with shooting. Ball has opened his pro career shooting 29.2 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. Kidd shot 34.5 percent from the field and just 13.8 percent from behind the arc in his first 12 games as a rookie with Dallas.
“Let him get some games under his belt. I truly think he is talented. Today we want everything microwaved, we want it overnight or we want it [instantly] Googled. We want to see the answer now.”
Jason Kidd on Lonzo Ball
Through their first dozen games, Ball’s and Kidd’s statistics are nearly identical. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds with 2.5 turnovers per game. Kidd averaged 9.6 points, 6.3 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 turnovers in the first 12 games of his pro career.
“Everybody talks about my jump shot and everybody said I couldn’t shoot,” said Kidd, who at one time critics nicknamed “Ason Kidd” because, they mocked, he didn’t have a J. “But you got to work on it. Also when I shot it, I knew if it wasn’t going in, I was chasing that thing down to try to get the rebound. Which I came up with some and didn’t come up with some. If I saw it was off, I had a sense of where I think it was going to bounce to, and I came up with some of them, which led to some assists.”
Kidd, though, developed his shot over his 19-year career and ranked the top 10 all time in 3-pointers made entering the season. Kidd said he did not focus on improving his jumper until he got to Phoenix because he was so concerned with his strengths early on and getting the ball to his scorers.
Kidd said Ball can learn a lot by following in the footsteps of one of the all-time Lakers greats: Kobe Bryant.
“You got to spend more time in the gym,” Kidd said of what Ball can do to improve his shot. “Everybody has [hard] times that [affect] your confidence. I think he has a guy there in L.A. who has worked extremely hard on his game in Kobe. Spending more time in the gym and understanding what it’s like to be tired and then going back when it is 1 or 2 in the morning when everyone is sleeping and see how you feel shooting when you are really tired because the season gets long.”
Kidd said his competitiveness helped him improve his jumper later in his career.
“It wasn’t until I got to Phoenix and understood the ability to score that I started to focus on that with all the scorers and shooters I was playing with,” Kidd said of improving his shot. “Especially in shooting games [during practice], I didn’t want to lose and I had to work on it.
“[But] the game has changed from when I played, too. We weren’t shooting a lot of 3s. My Dallas team, we did [with Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson]. But I think there are so many 3s taken now that you have to be a threat to shoot it if you want to help your team win.”
Ball agreed with Kidd’s advice on getting into the gym to improve his shot. The Lakers point to the rookie shooting 41.2 percent from behind the arc in college and say they don’t want to change his unorthodox shooting technique.
Ball said that coach Luke Walton and team president Magic Johnson want to improve his balance when shooting.
“It’s just in my head to be honest,” said Ball, who is shooting 13-for-55 from the field and 3-for-23 from 3 in his past four games. “I know I can [shoot]. … It’s a long season, just got to stay positive and keep putting in work. And then it is going to show for itself.”
Before the season, the Lakers went back and studied film of Kidd’s days as a New Jersey Net starting in 2001 when he arrived there in a trade from Phoenix to see how they could best use Ball and learn how to enhance their transition game. Kidd’s Nets ran a fast break that took New Jersey to two straight NBA Finals appearances.
“I think being a leader and point guard, he has to learn how to control the tempo of the game and he is a rookie, he has to learn his teammates and their strengths and what makes them tick,” Kidd said. “There is a lot on his plate to grasp. Give him time he will be fine. … There is a lot of attention [on Ball], and everybody is watching every step and maybe more or less picking at the flaws than the positives.
“It is not a comparison, but for Giannis [Antetokounmpo], three years ago his talent was the unknown. Now we saw then that he could be special. He worked and continued working. … [Ball is] a talent. Everybody wants to have some comparison to me. I think he is handling the situation very well. All the comparisons, all the people that are talking about him. He is a really grounded kid. I think he wants to win. Right now he is learning what it takes to win. It’s only 12 games. It is not easy.”