The Charlotte Hornets are reportedly receiving some much-needed reinforcements for Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium's sources, point guard LaMelo Ball is "optimistic" he will be in the lineup.
The third-year playmaker has been sidelined by an ankle injury and last appeared in a game during Charlotte's loss to the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 16.
The Hornets have lost five in a row and are an ugly 7-20 on the season. They have been among the league's most disappointing teams after making the play-in tournament last season.
Only the 7-22 Pistons have a worse record, and they have been dealing with injury concerns to their young point guard. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Cade Cunningham will undergo season-ending surgery on his left shin.
Ball's absence is a major reason Charlotte is battling with those Pistons near the bottom of the standings.
He has appeared in just three games this season after averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in 2021-22. The 2020-21 Rookie of the Year and 2021-22 All-Star also connected on 38.9 percent of his triples last season.
Ball is the franchise cornerstone at just 21 years old, and his long-term health is far more important than individual games in what is shaping up to be a lost season.
The team surely knows that and won't rush him back, but it seems as if he will return to the court after missing nearly one month.
Charlotte is 5.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament and will need to quickly turn things around if it is going to be anywhere near the factor it was last season.
Getting Ball back should help its cause, but contention may still be a long shot for the club.