When Lonzo Ball tweaked his left knee in an overtime victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 13, he didn’t think much of it. But the Los Angeles Lakers rookie woke up the following morning with some swelling, which prompted an MRI.
The Lakers initially diagnosed Ball with a mild knee sprain, which suggested he wouldn’t miss much time. As Ball remained sidelined by the injury, the Lakers specified he suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee.
The result has been Ball missing the team’s past 15 games, and he was also forced to sit out of the Rising Stars Challenge. Prior to the All-Star break, Ball said he was set to return Friday against the Mavericks.
Although he remains on track to do, the Lakers weren’t ready to confirm as much after Thursday’s practice. “He practiced in full but we’ll have to see how he responds,” head coach Luke Walton said. “But he looked good. It was nice having him on the court.”
Ball admitted to not being 100 percent healthy, though he feels confident in being able to end what’s been a frustrating period for him. “If it was up to me, I’d be playing,” Ball said.
“But like I’ve said, we’ve got to get the clearance from [the medical staff]. I’ll come in, tell them how I feel, and we’ll go from there. I feel I could definitely play. I don’t think it’s going to get any worse from me playing so I feel like I should be out there.”
The Lakers are 8-7 in the latest stretch without Ball, which includes a current three-game losing streak that took them into the All-Star break. Aside from the disappointment over unexpectedly missing a significant amount of time, Ball felt as though he was finding a rhythm.
“I felt like I was hitting my shot and kind of getting the hang of things,” he said, adding, “Hopefully not too long,” when asked for an estimate on how long it may take to settle back into a groove.
Ball is averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. In his absence the Lakers have turned to Brandon Ingram at point guard, with the second-year player shining in the role.
Nonetheless, Ingram and the team have anticipated Ball’s return, particularly to see how he may pair with recently-acquired Isaiah Thomas.
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