LaMelo Ball Could Make Return from Wrist Injury for Hornets vs. Pistons

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, wearing a cast on his fractured right wrist, shoots before an NBA basketball game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, April 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets might get a major boost this weekend. 

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, star rookie LaMelo Ball has been upgraded to questionable for Saturday's matchup versus the Detroit Pistons, meaning he could potentially make his return after a lengthy absence:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

LaMelo Ball has missed the past 21 games since fracturing his right wrist against the Clippers on March 20. The Hornets have hung in there at 10-11 without him ... and with Gordon Hayward (right foot sprain) also out long term.

Ball, 19, was the clear front-runner to win the Rookie of the Year Award this season before he fractured his wrist, averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three. 

Perhaps he'll still win the award, though missing such a large chunk of the season could hurt his cases with voters. His biggest competition is Anthony Edwards (18.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 40.2 field-goal percentage, 31.8 percent from three), who has played in 23 more games. 

More importantly, however, the Hornets desperately need him back. The team is jockeying for playoff positioning at 30-32, currently putting them eighth in the East. They've also been without key players in Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk, with depth becoming an issue in the compacted schedule of the shortened 2020-21 season. 

"I'd like to rest all the guys, to be honest," Hornets head coach James Borrego told reporters this week when asked if he would like to get a player like Terry Rozier some rest. "The reality is this is the schedule. This is the NBA. We rested Terry one time (against the Los Angeles Lakers April 13); as a competitor he wants to play."

"I've tried to manage their minds and their bodies throughout the season," Borrego added. "We've got the final 10 here. We need every one of them."