Charlotte Hornets All-Star LaMelo Ball to Miss Season Opener with Ankle Injury

Posted on: October 12, 2022, 10:46h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2022, 11:41h.

Basketball fans in Buzz City are bummed out that they’ll have to start the season without one of the most exciting guards in the NBA. LaMelo Ball, starting point guard for the Charlotte Hornets and the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year, suffered a left ankle injury and will miss the remainder of the preseason, along with the regular-season opener.

LaMelo Bal Ankle Injury sprained Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball, point guard for the Charlotte Hornets, is seen here grimacing in pain after an ankle injury against the Washington Wizards. Ball could miss a couple of weeks of action with the sprained ankle (Image: Getty)

The ankle injury occurred during a preseason game on Monday night when Washington Wizards’ power forward Anthony Gill accidentally stepped on Ball’s left ankle.

On Tuesday, Ball underwent an MRI which confirmed a Grade 2 left ankle sprain. Ball’s return to the Hornets is unknown and depends on how fast he responds to treatments.

Ball’s older brother, Lonzo Ball, also begins the start of the NBA season nursing an injury. Lonzo Ball, the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls, will miss the start of the regular season after recovering from knee surgery.

Hornets Down 2 Big-Time Scorers After Ball Injury

The Charlotte Hornets will miss two key starters from last season. Forward Miles Bridges faces domestic battery charges in Los Angeles after he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend in front of their two children. Bridges was due to sign a one-year contract extension worth $7.9 million, which the Hornets quietly let expire. He is now a free agent, but he might not play in the NBA ever again after the domestic abuse incident.

Bridges led the Hornets in scoring last season, averaging 20.2 points per game. Forward PJ Washington is expected to join the starting lineup this season to fill in for Bridges.

The Hornets took another blow when Ball injured his ankle. Ball earned a spot on the All-Star team last season while averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.5 rebounds per game. Between losing Bridges and Ball, the Hornets have to make up 40-plus points per game in scoring.

The Hornets will rely on Gordon Hayward to pick up the scoring slack. Hayward hinted he wants out of Charlotte after his role in the offense began to slide. He averaged 19.6 points per game in 2020-21, but averaged just 15.6 ppg last season.

The trade market is rather thin for a perpetually injured player like Hayward, who missed 28 games in 2020-21 and 33 games last season. Without Bridges and Ball, the offense will run through Hayward and shooting guard Terry Rozier to start the season.

Dennis Smith Jr. Could Start for Ball

Dennis Smith, Jr. is the Hornets’ backup point guard, but head coach Steve Clifford could promote him to the starting five. Smith joined the Hornets in the off-season, which marked his fifth team since entering the league in the 2017-18 season.

The Dallas Mavericks drafted Smith out of North Carolina State with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Smith had a strong start to his career, averaging 15.2 points per game as a rookie. The Mavs then traded him to the New York Knicks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis mega-trade in 2019.

Smith never found his footing with the Knicks and languished at the end of the bench. The Knicks finally traded him to the Detroit Pistons in 2021, but he appeared in only 20 games with the last-place Pistons. Last season, Smith latched on with the Portland Trail Blazers. He averaged 5.6 ppg in 37 games.

James Bouknight moves up on the depth chart behind Smith. The Hornets selected Bouknight with a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

During his rookie season, Bouknight appeared in just 31 games. He logged less than 10 minutes of court time and averaged 4.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game. He shot 34.7% from 3-point range.

The Hornets qualified for the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament during the last two seasons, but failed to secure an actual spot in the postseason. The Hornets finished the 2021-22 regular season in 10th place in the East with a 43-39 record.

Oddsmakers at DraftKings gave the Hornets a win total of just 33.5 o/u, and they’re projected to finish under .500 this season.

The Hornets are a long shot to win the 2022-23 NBA Championship at +18000 odds.