Lonzo Ball has never met Jason Kidd, but he will no later than Saturday, when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Milwaukee Bucks, the team Kidd coaches.
Kidd is 24 years older than Ball and was the second overall pick in the NBA three years before Ball was even born.
"When I first think of Jason Kidd I think of the Nets," Ball said.
That was actually Kidd's third team, one he joined seven years into his career. And of people comparing Ball to Kidd?
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"I'm just grateful for it," Ball said. "He's a legend. That's enough said."
Kidd has never been totally on board with the comparisons. He told the Los Angeles Times in July that it was an honor to be someone people compare young players to. But when asked whether he sees it, he said he hadn't seen Ball play much, and added: "Everybody has their opinion."
On Thursday during a morning show on ESPN, a host told Kidd she thought the comparisons were a stretch. Kidd said he agreed.
"Everybody thought he was going to come out and set the league on fire, but he also has a bulls-eye on his back," Kidd said. "There's other guys in this league that believe that they're better. He has to understand what it means to be prepared and be ready to play on a nightly basis. But he still has a skill set that a lot of guys don't have in this league and that's making his teammates better."
Kidd and Ball came into the league in different ways. Kidd was older than Ball is now. He had spent two seasons in college at the University of California. The Dallas Mavericks drafted Kidd, then traded him two years later. He then spent five years with the Phoenix Suns, being named an All-Star and to the All-NBA team three times during that span. The Suns also made the playoffs each year they had Kidd.
He found his most success with the New Jersey Nets, to whom the Suns traded Kidd in 2001. He led the Nets to the Finals in his first two seasons there (they lost to the Lakers and the Spurs). Then Kidd finished his career with the Mavericks and the Knicks.
Whether their careers or their peak skill levels will bear any resemblance to each other remains to be seen. But in their starts, so far, have been some similarities. Through his first 12 games, Kidd averaged 9.6 points, 6.25 assists, 6.42 rebounds per game and made 34.5 percent of his shots. Ball has averaged 8.9 points, 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game, while making 29 percent of his shots.
Kidd shot the ball much better by the end of his rookie year. He finished the year making 40 percent of his shots, something that was mentioned to Ball this week during a postgame interview.
"Everybody has a different path," Ball said. "When it's your job, it's your decision to get better every day and work at it every day and just come ready to work and do what you can for your team."
A college try
The Lakers draft class includes plenty of college experience. Josh Hart, whom the Lakers took 30th overall, played all four years of college. Kyle Kuzma, whom the Lakers took 27th, left after his junior year of college, but did spend four years in school and earned his degree.
"I think it helps with at least Josh and Kuz that they actually went to college for a few years and played for very good coaches that teach the fundamentals of defense and positioning and how to do those things," Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
Walton spent four years at the University of Arizona before the Lakers drafted him in 2003. And while he believes there is some truth to the idea that the longer a player is in college, the lower their ceiling is, he doesn't believe that predicts a player's future.
"I'd rather have a kid who played three years and proved that he got better each year and played under a coach that taught him the right and wrong way of playing basketball as opposed to an 18-year-old kid that has no idea what a good shot or bad shot is," Walton said. "I'll take the kid that actually played in college if everything else is equal."
Julius Randle is the only player in the NBA averaging 11 or more points and six or more rebounds in 20 or fewer minutes per game. His 60.7 field-goal percentage is the sixth best among qualifying players in the NBA. ... So far this season, the Lakers rank fourth in bench production. Their bench scores 42.8 points per game.