LaMelo Ball

Eastern Notes: Embiid, Ball, Claxton, Nets

If Sixers center Joel Embiid were to win the 2020/21 MVP award, it’d provide a sense of achievement for the team as a whole, head coach Doc Rivers opined, as relayed by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I think any individual award, no one does anything by themselves, right?” Rivers said. “So I think it would be a feel-good thing for the entire locker room. You know, obviously for Joel, because it is a hell of an accomplishment.”

Embiid is a strong candidate for the award, averaging a career-high 29.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 49 games this season. In addition to Embiid’s impressive averages, Philadelphia holds the best record in the Eastern Conference at 47-21. However, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who has put up huge numbers and has played over 800 more minutes than Embiid, is widely considered to be the MVP frontrunner.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes that Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has been grabbing at his wrist in recent games, and explores whether it should be a concern for the team. Ball recently missed 21 games after fracturing the same wrist, returning to action on May 1.
  • Nets center Nicolas Claxton tested positive for COVID-19 but wasn’t hit hard by the virus, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Claxton entered the league’s health and safety protocols on April 19. “I was testing positive for COVID,” Claxton said of his recent absence. “But I didn’t have any symptoms. I was just stuck in Miami, just there quarantining for about 10 days so I wasn’t really able to do much. I did a few quarantine workouts, but it’s just tough having to sit like that and then coming out here having to play. It’s just another obstacle. It’s nothing that I can’t conquer. This last week, it’s been a challenge, but it hasn’t been too tough … I’m just trying to get my rhythm back, get my wind back right before the playoffs so we’ll be able to make that push.”
  • Speaking of the Nets, the team will be focused on its health and continuity as the playoffs near, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has dealt with significant injuries throughout the season, failing to sport a consistent starting lineup and effectively build chemistry. The team still has one of the most talented rosters in history, particularly on offense, making its future playoff journey intriguing.

LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk To Return Saturday

4:26pm: Ball and Monk have both been cleared to play tonight, with Ball returning to the starting lineup, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Coach James Borrego plans to have them both play four to five minutes at a time, but didn’t offer an estimate of how much total court time either player will see.

12:20pm: Monk intends to return for Saturday’s game, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who notes (via Twitter) that Ball will test his wrist before the game before making a final determination on his availability.

11:38am: Ball is expected to return to action on Saturday against the Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

9:06am: The Hornets have upgraded both LaMelo Ball (right wrist fracture) and Malik Monk (right ankle sprain) from out to questionable for Saturday’s tilt against the Pistons, paving the way for both players to return.

Ball, 19, suffered a fractured wrist in late March, an injury that was believed to be season-ending. However, the then-projected Rookie of the Year has progressed well in his recovery from wrist surgery and may end up missing just over a month.

Before the injury, the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft averaged 15.9 PPG, 6.1 APG and 5.9 RPG while shooting 45.1% from the field in 41 games (21 starts).

As for Monk, he suffered his sprained ankle in early April and was initially projected to miss at least two weeks. The injury lingered and Monk will also end up missing a month, should he return tonight or in any of the Hornets’ upcoming games.

Monk, 23, averaged 13.2 PPG for Charlotte in 32 contests off the bench before his injury.

The Hornets were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the time of Ball’s injury but the team has since slipped down to eighth with a 30-32 record.

Injury Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Warren, DSJ, Bagley

The Hornets will see if LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are ready for game action during their off days Thursday and Friday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball had surgery March 23 on his fractured right wrist, while Monk has been sidelined since April 1 with a sprained ankle. Both players will take part in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages over the next two days.

The news isn’t as encouraging for Gordon Hayward, Bonnell adds. He’s still wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot and there’s no timetable for him to start working out. “Gordon is not there yet,” coach James Borrego said.

Here are some more injury-related notes and updates:

  • The Hawks are getting a second opinion on Kevin Huerter‘s sprained left shoulder, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter underwent an MRI this week, but the results haven’t been announced.
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, began jogging today on a treadmill, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Coach Nate Bjorkgren called it “a big step” for the 27-year-old forward.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been able to practice lately and the Pistons don’t have a timeline for him to return from left knee soreness, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s why it’s so important that Killian (Hayes) came back,” said coach Dwane Casey. “… It’s unfortunate that he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with.”
  • Marvin Bagley III could return soon from his hand injury, Kings coach Luke Walton tells James Ham of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Bagley has participated in some 3-on-3 games and may be ready to start playing in the next few days.

And-Ones: Referees, Play-In Tourney, Iverson Classic

While the NBA and its players’ union have provided weekly updates on the number of positive COVID-19 tests among players, we haven’t heard much about how the league’s referees – who travel commercially – have been affected by the coronavirus this season. Baxter Holmes of ESPN fills in some blanks, reporting that 10 of the NBA’s referees are currently sidelined, primarily due to COVID-related issues, and adding that 24 refs have missed at least one game this season due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

A league spokesperson tells Holmes that most of the current absences are related to contact tracing and that the NBA expects all 10 affected referees to be available for the start of the postseason next month.

In the interim, however, the league has had to “call up” six referees from the G League. According to Holmes, a number of teams and executives around the NBA have complained about the performance of those refs, prompting NBA VP of referee development and training Monty McCutchen to defend their performances.

“These were our top six G League officials who would have been getting some NBA games anyway this year. They had to be pressed into some more service, but they are knocking on the door to being staff members,” McCutchen told ESPN. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s just call any random G League (official) because they live in Portland and we’ll pull them up that night.’ They had already reached levels of excellence that meant they were ready for this.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA executives believe that flattening the lottery odds and introducing the play-in tournament has helped reduce league-wide tanking among non-playoff teams, according to Howard Beck of, who says that league sources think the play-in tournament will be adopted on a permanent basis beyond this season.
  • The Iverson Classic All-American Game, which will take place on May 8 in Memphis, has received NBA approval as a certified event, meaning team scouts can attend and evaluate prospects, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Top 2022 prospects such as Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren headline the list of participants.
  • A little over five months after the 2020 draft took place, Sam Vecenie, John Hollinger, of James L. Edwards III of The Athletic completed a re-draft of the ’20 class. Among the big risers in The Athletic’s re-draft are LaMelo Ball (No. 3 to No. 1), Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12 to No. 5), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16 to No. 7), Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17 to No. 7), and Jaden McDaniels (No. 28 to No. 10).

Injury Notes: Lillard, Durant, Fox, Hornets

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who has missed the team’s last three games due to right hamstring tendiopathy, intends to return on Wednesday night vs. Denver, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The Trail Blazers will welcome Lillard’s return — after squeaking out a one-point win in San Antonio, the club lost its next two games without him. Portland remains in the No. 6 seed in the West, but now has just a 1.5-game cushion over the seventh-place Mavs.

Here are a few more injury-related notes and updates:

  • A pair of sources confirmed to Brian Lewis of The New York Post that Kevin Durant‘s thigh injury is considered minor. Durant remains with the Nets on their current road trip rather than having returned to Brooklyn, and head coach Steve Nash said the star forward is “day-to-day.” The latest update from the team on James Harden wasn’t quite so positive, as we relayed last night.
  • Kings head coach Luke Walton said after Tuesday’s game that point guard De’Aaron Fox tweaked his ankle on Sunday, per Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento (Twitter link). It doesn’t appear the injury will sideline Fox for now, but it explains why he was limited to 28 minutes in the club’s loss last night — those 28 minutes were the fewest he has played in a game since January 15.
  • There’s still no set timetable for LaMelo Ball, Malik Monk, or Gordon Hayward to return to the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Although Monk’s return isn’t imminent, he’s believed to be closer than Hayward, says Bonnell. As for Ball, while a Monday report suggested he could be back as soon as early next week, head coach James Borrego wouldn’t confirm that, but he did say it seems that Ball wouldn’t be at risk of worsening his wrist injury if he returns this season, which is good news for Charlotte.

LaMelo Ball Cleared For Basketball Activity, Could Return Soon

Standout Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has been permitted to resume individual basketball activity after doctors discovered that his surgically-repaired right wrist has healed, according to a team press release.

Ball was the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors before he fractured his right wrist on March 20 against the Clippers. He won Rookie of the Month honors in January, February and March. After his cast was removed, a CT scan by Dr. Michelle Carlson of The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City indicated that Ball’s wrist has fully healed.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets that a source tells him Ball could be back on the floor for Charlotte as early as seven-to-10 days from now. Across 41 games (21 starts) for the eighth-seeded Hornets, the 19-year-old is averaging 15.9 PPG (second among rookies), plus 6.1 APG and 5.9 RPG (both first among rookies). He boasts a solid shooting line of .451/.375/.789.

If Ball can return, it would be a major salve for the Hornets, who are currently missing several key players due to various injuries. The club is 8-7 since Ball was sidelined.

Kupchak: Hornets Not Yet Ruling LaMelo Ball Out For Season

After suffering a broken wrist last week, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball underwent surgery to repair the fracture. Initial reports suggested Ball was expected to miss the rest of the season, but the team’s press release following the surgery didn’t close the door on the possibility of a return, indicating that the standout rookie would be reevaluated in four weeks.

Addressing Ball’s injury publicly for the first time today, Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak acknowledged that the team isn’t ruling out the 19-year-old for the rest of 2020/21, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

“We don’t know if LaMelo is out for the season or not,” Kupchak said during a conference call. “There is a possibility (of Ball playing again), just based on other players who have had this injury, that maybe he does come back for some portion of the year.”

As I noted at the time of Ball’s surgery, the idea of getting him back for the end of the season, including possibly for a play-in tournament appearance or a postseason series, is a tantalizing one. The 22-21 Hornets are currently the No. 4 seed in the East, so it’s safe to assume they’ll be in the hunt for a playoff berth all the way down to the wire, if they haven’t clinched a spot by the end of the regular season.

Still, I also cautioned that the Hornets won’t be in any rush to get their potential franchise player back on the court unless they’re absolutely confident that he’s 100% healthy. Kupchak confirmed that point in his conversation with the media today.

“The one thing we know we’re not going to do in any event is put his health in jeopardy,” Kupchak said, per Bonnell. “If we get to the end of the (regular season), and we’re in a playoff hunt, and he’s not quite ready — (where) we feel we could get him back on the court and push it — we won’t do that.”

Assuming Charlotte sticks its timeline of a four-week reevaluation, we should get a formal update from the team on Ball’s status on or around April 20.

LaMelo Ball Undergoes Wrist Surgery

After fracturing his right wrist on Saturday, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball underwent surgery this morning in New York to repair the injury, per Ashley Stroehlein of NBC Charlotte (Twitter link).

Ball will require about four weeks to recover from the surgery, then will begin rehabbing his wrist, says Stroehlein. Shams Charania of The Athletic, who tweets that Ball will be reevaluated at the four-week mark, notes that the team still hasn’t closed the door entirely on the possibility of the star rookie returning this season.

At 21-21, the Hornets currently hold the No. 6 seed in the East, putting them right in the thick of the playoff race. Getting Ball back down the stretch, perhaps for a play-in tournament or a first-round postseason series, would be a huge boost, but it seems like a long shot at this point.

Reports at the time of Ball’s injury indicated it was expected to be a season-ender, and the Hornets certainly won’t want to risk rushing back their franchise player, who is still just 19 years old.

In 41 games (28.6 MPG) this season, Ball averaged 15.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.6 SPG on .451/.375/.789 shooting.

Hornets Notes: Batum, Ball, Graham, Turner, Washington

Nicolas Batum found out the Hornets had released him in November on social media, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “I found out on Twitter, like everybody else,” Batum said. The veteran forward was let go to clear cap space for Gordon Hayward. Charlotte elected to use the stretch provision, spreading Batum’s $27.1MM cap hit over three seasons. The Hornets declined to comment on how they handled Batum’s departure.

We have more on the Hornets:

  • LaMelo Ball played 57 percent of the season before he injured his wrist, so he’s still likely to win the Rookie of the Year award, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic writes. Only strong finishes by either Anthony Edwards or Tyrese Haliburton would jeopardize his hold on the award.
  • The Hornets have a tricky decision on Devonte’ Graham in the aftermath of Ball’s injury, but they would still be wise to deal the restricted free agent, Vecenie opines in the same piece. Graham will never have more value than he has now, due to his $1.6MM salary, which makes him an option for any team interested in him. He could be an impact player for a contender, which would gain control over him this summer due to his RFA status.
  • Charlotte has long been interested in the Pacers’ Myles Turner and Indiana asked for P.J. Washington as part of a potential package prior to the season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star tweets.
  • With an open roster spot and up to $4.1MM in cap space, GM Mitch Kupchak needs to add a big man to the roster, Bonnell tweets. Charlotte has left a roster spot open throughout the season.

LaMelo Ball Expected To Miss Rest Of Season With Fractured Wrist

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has suffered a fractured bone in his right wrist and is expected to miss the rest of the season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The team confirmed the injury and stated that Ball will be out indefinitely.

Ball was dealing with wrist soreness and underwent an MRI in San Antonio today which revealed the injury. He’ll seek a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis, with the fracture being located around the area of his thumb, Wojnarowski notes.

Ball has averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game in his first NBA season, making a strong case to be named Rookie of the Year. Now that he’ll miss the final two months of the season, it could open the door for Anthony Edwards or Tyrese Haliburton to make a run for that award.

The Hornets are 20-21 and have lost three straight contests. Ball’s injury could affect how the team approaches the trade deadline this week, perhaps reducing the odds of a Devonte’ Graham trade or a major splash for a big man.