Ball is expected to miss significant time after he sustained a sprained right ankle in the team's loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. While Ball avoided a fracture in his ankle — the same ankle that needed surgery and knocked him out for the second half of last season — the team is expected to be cautious with his return.
What that means specifically, however, is still unclear. The Hornets are expected to announce a more definitive timeline in the coming days.
"Obviously it's frustrating," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said before their 115-91 loss to the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, via ESPN. "The other night was the first time we went into a game for two years where that was the projected starting lineup — basically, that it was the team that I thought I would coach. And we got about a quarter and three minutes, when he got hurt.
[But] this is part of the NBA. Like I told [the team], you got to hope that it's going to turn here and we'll get him back, we'll get Nick Richards back, Cody Martin back, Frank [Ntilikina] back, and then we'll have a stretch where we have our whole team. Because when we do, and we get a little bit more organized, I think we can be very good."
Ball went up for a layup over Magic forward Paolo Banchero just before halftime of the 130-117 loss at the Amway Center on Sunday. As he landed after making his way across the lane, his right ankle rolled hard. He went crashing down to the court clearly in pain and had to be helped to the locker room after several moments. He didn’t put much weight on his ankle at all as he did so.
LaMelo Ball was injured on this play and had to be helped to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/Tpbh2U6eYs
— Bally Sports: Hornets (@HornetsOnBally) November 27, 2023
He finished the game with seven points and two assists in 15 minutes.
Ball has averaged a career-high 24.7 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds so far this season, his fourth in the league. He has dropped at least 30 points in seven of the team's past 10 games. The 22-year-old signed a five-year, $205.9 million extension with the team this past offseason.
The Hornets are 5-10 this season headed into Tuesday's game, which is part of the NBA's in-season tournament. They've lost five of their past seven contests.