Hornets star LaMelo Ball had to be helped off the court after injuring his right ankle in Sunday’s loss at Orlando. The team announced (via Twitter) that Ball strained the ankle and wouldn’t return, but didn’t provide any further update after the game.
As Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer describes, Ball attempted a left-handed layup shortly before halftime and got tangled up with Paolo Banchero. Ball landed awkwardly and fell to the court in pain before hopping toward the locker room with assistance, unable to put much weight on his right foot.
Boone points out that it’s the same ankle that Ball had surgery on in March, which led to a long recovery that prevented him from being cleared for full basketball activities until a few weeks before training camp. Ball has been wearing ankle braces since then for extra support, Boone adds.
Injuries have plagued the talented point guard since Charlotte drafted him in 2020. Boone notes that he hasn’t made it through a full season in any of his four years in the league, and he was limited to 36 games last season because of four ankle injuries.
The injury comes at an especially bad time because Ball has been putting up some of the best numbers of his career, averaging 33.8 PPG over his last five games. According to Boone, he’s posted at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in seven straight contests and he’s one of seven players throughout the NBA who are averaging at least 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal per night.
Already off to a disappointing start at 5-10, the Hornets are in danger of sliding further out of the Eastern Conference play-in race if the injury causes Ball to miss significant time. Ball was hurt on the same night that Terry Rozier returned after missing nine games with a groin strain, and coach Steve Clifford talked about the impact of injuries on the team.
“You can’t worry about who is not there, because at the end of the day, it’s a long season,” he said. “We are just starting. The other part is you better know, though, why you are winning and why you are losing. For us, we’ve done some good things. Our lack of depth has been a major, major problem. People talk about bad starts — it’s actually not our starters. Because of so many injuries, we break the lineup quicker than most teams do and it hasn’t been good for us. … I think our record is not where we hoped it would be, but again you have to know why that happens. If you overreact, you are never going to make the best of situations going forward.”