However slim any return for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma seemed this season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton maintained it was a possibility. That was until Tuesday, when Walton all but formally ruled his young stars out for the remaining two games.
“It’s not looking good,” Walton said. “Most likely you won’t see them again this season.” Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets was the seventh in a row Ball missed, the sixth consecutive for Ingram, and Kuzma’s second.
When Ball sustained a left knee contusion on March 28, he expressed minimal concern and considered the injury minor. A precautionary MRI did not reveal any structural damage to his knee.
However, as Ball went through workouts and a game of 2-on-2 within recent weeks, he felt discomfort in the left knee. Walton said at the beginning of the month that the rookie point guard would not return unless he was pain free.
Between a shoulder sprain, left MCL sprain and his latest knee trouble, Ball was limited to 52 games (50 starts). He averaged 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
Ingram’s trouble began March 30 when he was hit in the neck/shoulder region in the third quarter. He continued playing but was removed a few minutes into overtime and taken to the locker room.
The second-year forward initially passed a concussion test, but was placed into the NBA’s concussion protocol the following day. Ingram was on the court during Tuesday’s shootaround to go through the last hurdle to being cleared. But in order to return he would have needed to be asymptomatic for 24 hours.
Kuzma’s body ultimately betrayed him as he suffered a left ankle sprain after battling through a sprain of his right ankle for nearly one month. “My last one was an inside sprain. This is an outside sprain, so it’s two different types of feelings,” Kuzma described of his injuries.