Lonzo Ball's day started with LeBron James wishing him a happy birthday, and it ended with Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton benching him and the rest of the team's starters for the first time this season. On the day he turned 20, Ball and the starting unit were benched down the stretch of a game that was still within reach as an unhappy Walton tried sending a message to his starters. Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez were all yanked with 3 minutes, 42 seconds remaining and the Lakers trailing 91-83 before dropping a 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. "I took the starters out a little early in the third because they didn't get back in transition defense. which is our No. 1 key to being a good defensive team," Walton said. "We talked about how important that third quarter was with the momentum of the game changing and them being a playoff team, so we can't afford to give those up so as a teaching lesson we took them out a little earlier than I normally have done." "Unfortunately, we didn't get back on defense again with four minutes to go in a close winnable game," Walton added. "You can't just give away free points. To let them know how serious we are about transition defense, we pulled them out again. We were going to let the starters see what they can do with the game. But when they didn't get back on the break, they are telling me and each other that they don't really want to finish that game." This was not how Ball envisioned celebrating his birthday. The No. 2 overall pick was hoping to follow up an upset win over John Wall and the Washington Wizards with a victory over the Raptors. But Kyle Lowry gave Ball a taste of an NBA triple-double, posting 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for Toronto (3-2).
Luke Walton benches Lakers starters 'as a teaching lesson' in loss
ESPN | Oct 28