Hornets LaMelo Ball talks injury, rehabilitation, return

By Richard Walker

Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball didn’t think he had broken his right wrist when he did on March 20.

He also didn’t think his season was over when it was determined he had a broken wrist.

Now that Ball has had his cast removed and he’s been cleared to resume some practice drills, he isn’t setting a return date but he’s happy to be planning to get back in action.

“Not being able to play has been the toughest part,” Ball told reporters in a zoom news conference on Tuesday.

Monday night, the Hornets released a statement that Ball had undergone further evaluation on his right wrist, had his cast removed and the physician who performed the surgery – Dr. Michelle Carlson of The Hospital for Special Surgery – confirmed the wrist had healed.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Ball said after the Hornets held a morning shootaround in preparation for Tuesday night’s game at the New York Knicks.

Charlotte has 16 games left in its regular season, starting with Tuesday’s game. The Hornets enter the Knicks game in eighth place of the Eastern Conference with a 28-28 record. Charlotte is 2 1-2 games behind fourth-place Atlanta and 2 1-2 games ahead of ninth-place Indiana.

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.

Some reports originally indicated Ball’s season was over following the broken wrist diagnosis.

Ball said he never felt way.

“Nah, I don’t never think like that,” he said.

In fact, at the time, Ball said he thought his awkward fall after driving to the basket in the Clippers game might have simply sprained his wrist.

“When it happened, I thought it was a sprain, you know, and I would finish the game out and I would ice it down and play the next game,” Ball said. “Then it started irritating me more and more. I still didn’t think it was broke.”

Now back participating in some practice drills, Ball is confident he’ll be back in action on the court but declined to give a return date.

“Don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s day by day.”

If Ball were to return a week after getting his cast off, he would return for the Hornets’ last 11 games.

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). And top reserve Malik Monk has missed 11 games.

Currently, 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 consecutive games out of action.

Ball acknowledged the playoffs were the team goal.

“Definitely, but we’re all going day by day,” Ball said. “We’re trying to get over our injuries first.”