Walton has already had to defend his handling of Ball in light of criticism from LaVar Ball, who has said on multiple occasions that his son would find a rhythm and lead the Lakers to more wins if he played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.A certain irony can be found in the chasm between how LaVar Ball wants Walton to coach his son and how he is actually doing it. Beyond LaVar, Lonzo Ball might have no greater advocate than his head coach.On Friday, Walton said he believes Ball, who is shooting 32.1 percent from the field and is averaging 8.6 points per game, is capable of become a top scorer in the NBA – something many have begun to doubt based on early returns.Walton pointed to Ball’s unique skills in transition and how, on his best nights, he is able to get to the rim.“He’s got such a good knack for getting those shots,” Walton said. “You add that with the ability that I think he’s going to be a fine NBA 3-point shooter as well. It makes for the ability to be a very good scorer.“I think he’ll always want to pass first, which will also lead to him having scoring opportunities because defenders are going to be more worried about guarding their own man.”Walton said he has not seen Ball suffer any ill effects from the fluctuating minutes, which is consistent with the image of the rookie as unperturbed by any of the twaddle surrounding him.“He was on the bench supporting his teammates,” Walton said. “He was in the locker room after the game laughing with the guys. I know he wants to be on the court, and he’s really good at finishing games. He proved that in (Thursday’s win in) Philly.“But part of being on a team is being happy for your teammates when they’re having success.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error NEW YORK — If anyone other than a certain parent objects to Lonzo Ball’s minutes during the fourth quarter of Lakers games, they aren’t saying it.“That’s what the team is for,” Lonzo Ball said after the Lakers pulled away from the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday to win 110-99 while Ball and starting center Brook Lopez watched from the bench in the final period.The Lakers outscored Charlotte 34-24, and sixth man Jordan Clarkson capably handled point guard responsibilities while scoring 14 of his team-high 22 points.“When JC came in, he was cookin’ tonight,” Ball said following the win. “We rolled with him, and I’m glad we did.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe exclusion of Ball from fourth-quarter activities is bound to draw attention, however. Coach Luke Walton, who routinely defends his point guard’s development, bristled at another question about leaving Ball on the bench, a lineup decision he has made on several other occasions this season.“Lots of people don’t play in the fourth,” Walton said. “And … reporters only point out that Lonzo doesn’t play.”Walton pointed to Lopez, who was kept out in the fourth in Charlotte after scoring 13 points through three quarters, as well as starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was on the floor late Saturday but on other nights has been on the bench in crunch time.Those two players account for $40 million in salary. Walton is right, their occasional absences are not in line with preseason expectations. However, they do not have cheerleaders with a national platform clamoring for a larger fourth-quarter role, as Ball does in the form of his father LaVar.“There’s lots of starters who aren’t playing in the fourth,” Walton said. “Depending on how the group (on the floor) goes. We’ve got a lot of players who are very similar in what they can do, as far as where they’re at in their careers, and if someone’s going we’re going to let them go.”
EL SEGUNDO – Lonzo Ball has never broken a bone before. Last Saturday as he tumbled to the court, he thought his time had finally come.His left ankle spun toward the court on an awkward step. Even after watching the replay, he couldn’t say with certainty whether he stepped on his defender’s foot, or whether it was just a strange twist on its own.“It happened kind of fast,” Ball said. “I remember my leg pretty much just going like that and kind of popping out. That’s what it was.”Ball feared the worst, needing to be carried back to the locker room by teammates on that fateful evening in Houston. When he learned that it was a sprain — a serious sprain, but a sprain nonetheless — he felt a little lighter. The Lakers have yet to win since he was hurt, dropping three straight games, which is all the more frustrating to Ball, who acknowledged he thought the last few games before he got hurt were some of best.But Ball seemed to target the All-Star Break, when the Lakers will have 25 games left, as the time when he thinks the team will have a chance to be fully healthy.“It’s tough,” he said. “You’re asking people to play out of position. You’re asking people to play more minutes than usually they play. And we’ve never really had a full team for the whole year. So hopefully after All-Star we can all come together and go on a nice little run.” James participates in contact drillsIt’s been a month since Luke Walton has seen LeBron James taking a hit.That finally happened on Saturday during Lakers practice, as James participated for the first time in defensive contact drills with the team. It’s the most James has done on the court with the Lakers since Dec. 25, when he strained his left groin against the Golden State Warriors.While James won’t play Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, taking contact is the most hopeful sign yet in a rehabilitation process that has stretched well beyond what the Lakers first hoped. James will miss his 16th straight game Sunday, and the Lakers have gone 5-10 without him so far.“This was the first time he’s been out there in the part of practice that involved that type of movement,” Walton said. “He looked good. He’s still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering.”The Lakers were forced, however, to pare down their practice schedule with a cap on healthy bodies. Kyle Kuzma (hip strain) did not participate, and remains questionable for Sunday’s game. Josh Hart didn’t appear on the official injury report, but trainers told Walton before practice that he has had issues with on of his knees, and it would be best not to have contact Saturday.Related Articles AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersSo while Ball, now a week removed from his injury against the Rockets and now perhaps three to five weeks out from a return, was admittedly frustrated by the setback, the 21-year-old point guard has a sunnier outlook than he started with.“This is bad timing: I thought I was playing pretty good basketball, finding my rhythm,” he said. “Fortunately I don’t get to miss the whole year. I’ll be back and try to get back into the swing of things.”That time is still hard to imagine: While Ball got off his crutches Friday, he’s still mostly keeping his leg elevated and icing it. He can do some work in the weight room, and he can watch as much film as he wants, but that’s it.Ball said it helps, in one sense, that he’s missed time before as a rookie. He’s picked up best practices from that experience, and he’s learned more this season from watching LeBron James and Rajon Rondo go through extended absences.“ I looked at it like I get to watch a lot more film,” he said. “You get to get a little bit bigger in the weight room now. Stay sharp, eating right and stay locked into the game. Don’t let your mind wander too many places.” Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers “We gotta get guys healthy to be able to perform in games,” Walton said. “It’s a balancing act because we know we need guys to practice and get better at things but we also know when you’re down in numbers like we are you also can’t push them too hard and not have them fresh for a game.”Walton said he hoped that Kuzma’s hip would loosen up with two days in between games, but that he doesn’t want him to play through stiffness the way he did against Minnesota. Kuzma was just 4 for 12 in that game, and was limited on the glass and on defense.“The main thing is to me, when you’re not moving right, you’re more likely to get hurt anyways,” he said. “We can’t have him getting hurt. He’s a tough kid, I know he wants to play. If he can, he will.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions
Raheem Sterling thought he had completed his hat-trick in stoppage time with the goal that would have sent City through, but VAR ruled it out for offside against Sergio Aguero in the build-up.“It was from hell to heaven,” said Alderweireld. “I was thinking we can’t concede in that moment, we knew what we had thrown (it away).“I think we were a little bit angry in that moment but then we saw the ref going back saying, ‘Offside’.“It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it on the pitch. For the neutral fans it was an unbelievable night.”Alderweireld will now face his old club Ajax in the last four.“I think (it’s like) going back home. I had a wonderful time there.“It is an unbelievable semi-final for us and we know it is a top team to beat.”Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino labelled his players “heroes” for fighting against adverse circumstances to make the last four of the European Cup for just the second time in the club’s history.Spurs have not signed a new player for over a year and played the majority of the campaign at temporary home Wembley before the club’s new 62,000 capacity stadium opened last month.However, Dele Alli believes they have proved on the field they deserve to be considered among the European elite.“We have proved we deserve to be here at the top, amongst the top teams in the world,” said the England midfielder.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Heaven sent: Toby Alderweireld celebrates Tottenham’s progress to the Champions League semi-finals © AFP / Anthony DevlinMANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Apr 18 – Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld went from “hell to heaven” when VAR denied Manchester City a late winner to send Spurs into the Champions League semi-finals.City won Wednesday’s second leg 4-3 on the night, but Tottenham prevailed on away goals after winning the first leg 1-0 last week.