CHARLOTTE, N.C (AP) — Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball said he anticipates being ready for training camp in September after suffering through an injury-plagued 2022-23 season in which he sprained his left ankle three times and fractured his right ankle, all of which limited him to 36 games.
Whether he’ll consider wearing ankle braces moving forward remains to be seen.
“It’s tough,” Ball said Monday. “I mean probably annoying just going through it, but I’m still alive and stuff like that, so you can’t really be too mad. Just go through the rehab, do that whole process and try to come out on top.”
Ball, wearing a walking boot on his right foot and leaning on crutches, spoke to reporters for the first time since undergoing season-ending surgery on his broken right ankle on March 1.
The Hornets had playoff expectations this season, but Miles Bridges’ legal troubles over the summer and a series of injuries to key players like Ball, Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin and Kelly Oubre Jr. wrecked the team’s season.
When on the court, Ball showed he was ready to take the next step in his progression after reaching the All-Star game last season.
He averaged career highs in points (23.3) and assists (8.3) per game while shooting 37.6% from 3-point range, becoming the second-youngest player to record 1,000 points, assists and rebounds in NBA history behind only LeBron James.
The Hornets (22-50) currently have the fourth-worst record in the league heading into Monday night’s game against Indiana, and have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
It marks the seventh-straight year Charlotte will miss the postseason.
“Well we didn’t make no playoffs and so whether I played 36 games, 25 or 50, it doesn’t really matter,” Ball said. “The fact that we didn’t make it… I mean, it’s just kind of getting ready for the next season now.”
It has been a rough year for Ball’s older brother Lonzo, too.
The Chicago Bulls point guard hasn’t played in more than a year and a half and his agents announced last week he will have a cartilage transplant in his left knee and miss the remainder of this season. It is Lonzo Ball’s third surgery on the knee in a little more than a year.
LaMelo Ball, who is just 21, didn’t discuss the details of his rehab schedule, saying he’s not sure when he’ll be allowed to walk without crutches or begin running or jumping.
The repeated injuries to his ankles, which actually began in October when he stepped on Anthony Gill’s foot in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards, has raised questions over whether Ball should wear ankle braces.
Like many NBA players, Ball wears low tops and no ankle braces.
“I haven’t really looked into that yet,” Ball said when asked if he’s considering ankle braces. “I gotta see how I feel first when I come back. Then I will make a decision.”
Ball, who has relatively thin legs, said he wants to build more overall strength in his ankles this offseason and make sure they’re fully healed, including the bones that have been repaired when he came down wrong on his foot during a non-contact play on Feb. 27.
“I hate milk for real but my pops always had me drinking it — cookies and milk every night,” he said with a laugh.
Ball, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft, has yet to make the postseason with the Hornets, but added he still likes playing for the franchise.
“Wherever I’m at I feel like I’m straight, I feel like I’m good,” Ball said. “I love it here.”
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