Good news for the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA and the sport of basketball in general: LaMelo Ball’s fractured right wrist has healed.
The Hornets announced on Monday that the rookie “has been cleared to return to individual basketball activity” after being evaluated at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Ball underwent a CT scan and his cast has been removed. While the team has not announced when he is expected to be in the lineup again, he could be ready to go as soon as 7-10 days from now, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Ball, 19, was the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year when he suffered the injury — and played through it — against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 20. In 21 games as a starter, he averaged 19.5 points, 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 32.1 minutes, running the show for a better-than-expected Hornets team that was having at least as much fun as any team in the league. Ball’s prodigious passing instincts, ability to generate easy points in transition and surprising efficiency as an outside shooter had a lot to do with Charlotte exceeding expectations. There were highlights aplenty, but he also managed to fit into an offense that empowered other players to create.
When Ball is back on the court, he’ll join a Hornets team that is in the thick of a battle for playoff position. In his absence, they initially fared well, winning the first three games after his injury and five of seven before they took another hit. On April 2 in Indiana, Gordon Hayward sprained his right foot, a setback that came with a recovery timeline of at least four weeks.
Severely shorthanded, Charlotte has gone 3-5 since then. Heading into a game against the sixth-place New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, it is eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-28 record. To qualify for the playoffs without having to deal with the play-in, it would need to finish sixth or higher.
Given that there were serious doubts about Ball being able to play again this season, the Hornets have to be thrilled to even be thinking about reintegrating him. With Hayward still sidelined and every game feeling consequential, this is a particularly exciting development. The moment Ball steps on the court, he will infuse Charlotte with energy. Right now, its offense can use any spark it can get.