LaMelo Ball suffers fractured ankle, putting rest of his season in doubt


Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball suffered a fractured right ankle during a game against the visiting Detroit Pistons on Monday, the Hornets announced.

Ball had possession in the third quarter and was attempting to shake free from Detroit’s Killian Hayes when the third-year guard planted on his right leg and fell backward to the floor with no contact. Ball left the game, which Charlotte went on to win, and did not return.

The Hornets did not provide an immediate estimate of how long Ball might be out. Depending on its severity, the injury could end his season, or Charlotte might opt to keep him sidelined over its remaining games even if he is able to return. Despite a five-game winning streak following Monday’s victory, the Hornets have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 20-43.

“I feel for him,” the Hornets’ Gordon Hayward said at a postgame news conference. “I feel like we were starting to figure some stuff out a little bit, and then another injury [hits], so it’s certainly disappointing and tough for him, tough for our team.”

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Ball has missed 27 games this season with injuries to his left ankle. He had been enjoying a particularly productive stretch over Charlotte’s four games coming into Monday — including averages of 27.3 points, 11.5 assists and 8.8 rebounds and 42 percent shooting from three-point range — and was having another fine performance (18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, six rebounds and five assists) when he went down against Detroit.

The third pick of the 2020 draft, Ball quickly garnered acclaim as one of the NBA’s most exciting young players. He was the rookie of the year, then earned an all-star selection in his second season. Over his 36 games this season, Ball has improved his numbers in categories such as points and assists.

As such, the 21-year-old has been a rare bright spot for a franchise that has struggled to produce players with star power. The younger brother of Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball came into the league with a high profile because of a celebrated high school career, family ties and an unusual pre-NBA path under the guidance of his outspoken father, LaVar.

LaMelo Ball probably will have to wait until the 2023-24 season to resume impressing fans with his slick ballhandling, creative passing and long-range marksmanship. His fracture Monday came on the same night the Los Angeles Lakers learned a foot injury suffered by LeBron James on Sunday is expected to sideline the superstar for weeks.

“Injuries are the worst part about the game. I know that all too well,” said Hayward, a 13-year veteran whose many physical setbacks included a badly broken ankle that cost him nearly the entire 2017-18 season with the Boston Celtics.

“Hopefully he keeps his spirits up,” Hayward said of Ball. “The most important thing when you are injured is to be able to stay positive and have a good support system around you, and that includes your teammates, your family and your friends. He’s young, so he’ll bounce back for sure, but it’s always tough in the moment.”

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