Ball to return? He’s been cleared to resume some practice drills after positive four-week evaluation

By Richard Walker

Could the Charlotte Hornets’ injury woes be changing for the better?

LaMelo Ball during a practice session earlier this season. [Hornets.com photo]
Monday night, the team released a statement that injured guard LaMelo Ball underwent further evaluation on his right wrist, had his cast removed and Dr. Michelle Carlson of The Hospital for Special Surgery confirmed the wrist had healed.

Carlson also cleared Ball to return to individual basketball activity. Ball had been doing some on-court work while using his left hand in the last several days.

The team news release added that “additional updates on Ball’s status and return to game action will be provided as appropriate.”

Charlotte has 16 games left in its regular season, starting with Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. game at the New York Knicks. The Hornets entered Monday with a 28-28 overall record that was good enough for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Selected with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, Bal was averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.59 steals in 41 games before suffered the broken bone in a 125-98 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers on March 20.

And in his 21 starts, he was averaging 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals. He was the only player in the last 60 years to lead all rookies in total points, rebounds, assists and steals at the All-Star Break while also winning three consecutive Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Awards.

If Ball can return in a week, the Hornets would have 11 games left in its season as they try to make the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Due to the compacted schedule caused by the COVID pandemic, teams that finish seventh through 10th in each conference can “play in” to the eight-team conference playoffs.

In a season marked by one injury after another, Ball has missed more games than any other player with 15. All five players who started the Dec. 23 season opener have missed three or games – guards Devonte’ Graham (11), Terry Rozier (3), forwards Gordon Hayward (11) and P.J. Washington (7) and center Cody Zeeler (13). Also, top reserve Malik Monk has missed 11 games.

And Monk has missed the last nine games, Hayward the last eight and Graham the last two in addition to Ball’s current streak of 15 games out of action.