Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball missed the first 13 games of the regular season with a sprained ankle injury. But he reinjured the same ankle while chasing down a loose ball against the Indiana Pacers.
Late in the fourth quarter, Ball stepped on the foot of a fan sitting in the front row and immediately hobbled back to the Hornets’ bench. When he sat down, he grabbed his left ankle. Training staff quickly escorted him to the locker room.
LaMelo rolled it on a fan’s foot is what I was told,” said head coach Steve Clifford. “Hopefully, it’s not bad.”
Without Ball down the stretch, the Hornets saw their comeback fall short with a 125-113 loss. The Pacers unleashed a 21-9 run late in the game to bury the Hornets.
Ball finished the game with a team-high 26 points, six assists, and two steals. He also shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
“He was great tonight,” added Clifford.
Ball Goes Down in His First Home Game
Ball suffered a serious left ankle injury in the preseason. He did not make his season debut until the second weekend in November. Ball helped the Hornets snap an eight-game losing streak in his second game back in the starting lineup.
A rusty Ball averaged 16 points per game in his first two games back from injury, but struggled to find his shot. He missed 24 shots from the floor, including 5-for-24 from 3-point range for just 20.8%.
Ball is considered one of the best passers in the NBA, but that was one aspect of his game that was spot on. He’s averaged 7.0 assists per game since his return, including nine dishes in a victory against the Orlando Magic on Monday.
After playing two games on the road, Ball finally made his home debut in Charlotte on Wednesday night. The crowd at the Spectrum Center gave Ball a raucous standing ovation during player introductions.
The Hornets selected Ball with the third-overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He won the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year award, even though he only started in 31 games and missed 21 games with a fractured wrist. During his first season, Ball averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game.
In his second season in 2021-22, Ball earned All-Star honors, averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Buzz City ER
The Hornets have been decimated with injuries this season. Ball missed 13 games, and could miss more time after another ankle injury.
Small forward Gordan Hayward missed the last eight games with a shoulder injury, but also nursed a knee contusion. Forward Cody Martin was hampered by a quad and knee injury, and appeared in one game this season before he underwent arthroscopic surgery. Martin is out for at least another month.
Point guard Dennis Smith, who excelled filling in for Ball, missed multiple games with an ankle injury. Veteran shooting guard Terry Rozier, who has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, missed seven games with a sprained ankle.
It’s very tough but we have to be professionals about it,” said shooting guard Kelly Oubre, who is one of only three starters to appear in all 16 games this season. “It’s the game of basketball and those things happen. But people who are suited up and who are healthy enough to go out there, we have to go pick up that slack.”
Ankle injuries have even plagued the Hornets’ developmental team. Center Mark Williams, the #15 pick from the 2022 NBA Draft, twisted his ankle while playing for the Greensboro Swarm in the NBA G League.
Hornets Now in Last Place
It’s only 16 games into the season, and the future looks grim for the Hornets with the injuries piling up. After the loss to the Pacers, the Hornets slipped to 4-12 on the season, including 1-6 at home in Charlotte. The Hornets are one of the worst betting teams in the NBA this season with a 6-10 ATS record.
The Eastern Conference basement has three bad teams, including the Hornets, Orlando Magic (4-11), and Detroit Pistons (3-12). All three teams are now in contention for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and the #1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Atlanta Hawks (9-6), Washington Wizards (8-7), and Miami Heat (7-8) are in a three-way race to win the Southeast Division title, while the Hornets slug it out with the Orlando Magic for last-place in the division.
The Hornets are +15000 long shots to win the Southeast, and they’re also one of the biggest long shots on DraftKings’ futures board at +80000 odds to win the 2023 NBA championship.
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