LOS ANGELES — It was a scene Lakers fans hoped to avoid altogether. When it happened it struck chords of uncertainty and concern into anyone watching.
Lonzo Ball hobbled off the court shortly before halftime of the Lakers’ 113-107 exhibition loss to the Denver Nuggets. Moments earlier he had landed on the foot of Emmanuel Mudiay after blocking the Denver point guard’s shot from behind.
The injury was ultimately diagnosed as a mild left ankle sprain and is not believed to be serious, but a snapshot of the moment serves as a sobering reminder of just how much the Lakers’ future is believed to hinge on the success and health of one person.
Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft, made his Staples Center debut on Monday and finished with eight points, four assists and two rebounds in 22 minutes. He also committed four turnovers. Ball did return to the game after having his ankle taped at halftime, but
The signature moment of his night came on an alley-oop, but surprisingly he was not the one delivering it, but the one finishing it – off a pass from Jordan Clarkson.
The Lakers dropped to 0-2 in the preseason, but once again were led in scoring by rookie Kyle Kuzma, who followed up his 19-point performance Saturday in Anaheim by pouring in 23 points – several during a late comeback attempt – against the Nuggets.
Denver guard Gary Harris led all scorers with 25 points.
Kuzma, drafted 27th overall – the pick the Lakers acquired in the D’Angelo Russell trade – shot 9-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-9 from beyond the 3-point line. After trailing by 20 points in the third quarter, the Lakers pulled within four at 111-107 with less than a minute left after Kuzma scored eight straight points.
“As young as he is and as new at this (as he is) his competitive spirit is very impressive and I think that’s what kind of drives him to have these nice games for us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
On the Nuggets’ next possession, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope forced a turnover and gave the Lakers a chance to pull even closer, but Kuzma forced a 3-point try and the Lakers’ run stalled.
Signed for one season at $18 million, Caldwell-Pope was brought in to be a stalwart defensive presence. In addition to his two steals, he scored 15 points and added five rebounds and four assists.
Luol Deng made his preseason debut for the Lakers. In the second year of a much-criticized four-year, $72 million contract Deng played 10 minutes and had nine…