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Healthy LaMelo Ball bolsters Hornets postseason stretch drive
Immediate impact in return against Detroit
Published Sunday, May 2, 2021
by Herbert L. White

Miles Bridges (left) is a fan of rookie LaMelo Ball's return to the Charlotte Hornets' lineup in the final two weeks of the regular season.

LaMelo Ball may not be the Hornets’ best player, but he might be the most important.

The rookie guard’s return to the lineup after missing 21 games with a broken wrist was pronounced in Saturday’s 107-94 win against Detroit. Ball’s statistical contribution was solid with 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, but more important was the energy he brought on the floor. One play stood out: a full-court underhand pass to Miles Bridges in the first half that resulted in a layup.

Few players would dare try such a pass in a game, much less with a newly healed wrist.

“It’s great to have him back because you know he’s a great passer, he gets everybody involved, his energy is infectious,” Bridges said. “The underhanded pass was crazy. You have to have top notch confidence to pull something like that off. He threw it right to my pocket. It’s good to have him back.”

Said Ball: “Waking up today, everything feels great for sure,” Ball said. “It feels like a dream, even when I was on the court it didn’t feel like I was out here. Still just living in a dream I guess, but that’s every day for me.”

Ball’s return, as well as that of Malik Monk (ankle) comes at a good time for Charlotte (31-32), which is fighting to earn its first playoff berth in five years. The Hornets, who are eighth in the Eastern Conference, need as many healthy bodies as possible after a rash of injuries scrambled the rotation.

Still, Charlotte managed to tread water going with two weeks left in the regular season.  

“They definitely held us up when we were out, so I’m proud of them for that,” Ball said. “Now we are back, so we are going to try and keep this thing going. It’s definitely good to get people back, it’s a blessing. Malik is feeling better and I’m feeling better, so it’s all good.”

Although Ball has missed nearly a third of the season because of the wrist, Hornets coach James Borrego believes he’s done more than enough to earn the Rookie of the Year award. Of immediate concern is what Ball brings to the lineup.

“For us as an organization, this is a wonderful time for Melo to be center stage of this thing,” Borrego said. “But more than anything, Melo wants this to be about the team and I love that about him – more than anything, it’s about this playoff push more than the Rookie of the Year and that’ll take care of itself. To me, I think he’s clearly the Rookie of the Year and I think he’ll prove that over these next [few] games as well, but I think he’s already done enough to get there.”


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