Hornets LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk could return on Saturday against Detroit

By Richard Walker

The Charlotte Hornets are getting some reinforcements for their stretch run, including potential 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball.

Ball has missed the last 21 games since breaking a bone in his right wrist on March 20. And reserve guard Malik Monk has missed the last 15 games since spraining his right ankle on April 1.

“They’re questionable for tomorrow,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said on Friday. “We’ll make a determination tomorrow at some point.”

The Hornets will enter Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Detroit Pistons with 10 games to play and positioned to make their first playoff berth since 2016.

Original reports had Ball out for the season after his injury but after surgery was performed on Ball on March 23, team officials and Ball held out hope Ball would be able to return to action.

Selected with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, Ball 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.

Monk’s season was disrupted initially by his testing positive for COVID-19 at the end of training camp in December.

Monk didn’t play in 13 of the team’s first 17 games, but once he got into the playing rotation, he was playing the best of his career before the ankle injury. Monk had career highs in scoring average (13.1), shooting percentage (46.0) and 3-point shooting (42.4) in 32 games before his injury.

“We’re adding two guys that know how to play,” Borrego said. “Ten games is a good sample size to figure this out.”

Entering Friday’s games, Charlotte is in eighth place of the Eastern Conference race. The top six finishers at the end of the regular season in each conference automatically make the playoffs with the seventh- through 10th-place teams in each conference having play-in games to make the 16-team pstseason field.

Of Charlotte’s last 10 games, it plays only four games against teams with winning records and four games against teams currently out of the postseason.

The Hornets played Detroit, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, twice in the next four days. Charlotte also has an 11-game winning streak against the Pistons that is tied for second-best for the Hornets over another NBA team in franchise history.