A return to action for LaMelo Ball this week? Hornets coach awaits his chance to get “live practice” reps

By Richard Walker

Could rookie guard LaMelo Ball (right wrist) and top reserve Malik Monk (right ankle) be close to a return from injury for the Charlotte Hornets?

Coach James Borrego wasn’t giving any definitive answers but if you read between the lines of what he said after Monday’s practice session in which Ball and Monk were partial participants, you might determine the team has hope that both will be returning soon.

Both players – along with Gordon Hayward (right foot) and Nate Darling (right ankle) – have already been listed as out for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. home game against Milwaukee.

Given the inability for any real practice time before Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Boston, it would seem unlikely they’d play in that game as well.

But then the Hornets get two full days off on Thursday and Friday before hosting Detroit on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Of Ball and Monk, Borrego said: “Both guys are on the floor. The next step is getting some live play for both of them. The sooner the better.”

Borrego also later said the team could create some 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 scrimmage time for both players in hopes of giving the team the opportunity to determine if either is ready to return.

“What’ll be important will be the transition from Wednesday’s game into Saturday’s game,” Borrego added. “That’s a positive break in our ability to get them back.”

One way to translate that is that the Hornets know it needs both players to have any chance of playoff success so why rush either back until fully ready?

A Saturday return would be giving Ball a full six weeks since the injury happened and 13 days since his cast was taken off and Monk would get a full month since his injury.

Charlotte enters Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee with a 30-30 overall record. Entering Monday night’s game, the Hornets with in eighth place of the Eastern Conference standings.

Ball, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, was averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.59 steals in 41 games before the injury, including 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 21 starts.

Monk, the No. 11 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, was averaging a career-best 13.1 points in 32 games when he injured his ankle.