Bone bruise likely to push Lonzo Ball's recovery from ankle sprain past six weeks

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Ben Weinrib
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
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Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball could miss extended time due to a bone bruise. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball could miss extended time due to a bone bruise. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Second-year Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball has been out since January 19 with a left ankle sprain, but a bone bruise will likely keep him out longer than expected.

Ball was slated to miss four to six weeks — it’s already been 33 days — but two sources close to Ball told the Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli that he is will likely be out those six weeks.

Ball initially hurt his ankle on January 19 when he he collided with Houston Rockets forward James Ennis. Ball had to be carried off the court by teammates, and the X-rays, which had to be taken in a wheelchair, revealed no fractures.

The timing was rough for Ball, who had been coming into his own since LeBron James went down with a groin injury. Since December 27, Ball averaged 12.9 points, 6.9 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game, including 16.7 points, 8.0 assists and 7.7 rebounds in the three games before the injury.

The Lakers had been playing particularly strong defense with Ball, who at 6-foot-6 has great size for a point guard. In the 12 games without Ball, the Lakers have given up 125.1 points per game with no opponents held to double-digits. Compare that to the 110.8 points per game they have allowed with Ball all year and the 108.7 points they averaged during Ball’s last 10 healthy contests.

In Ball’s stead, Rajon Rondo has picked up the slack with James also taking on more ball-handling duties. Since returning from a right hand injury, Rondo is averaging 8.9 points and 8.7 assists per game, both of which are above his season averages.

How does this affect the Lakers playoff chances?

The Lakers sit 10th in the West at 29-29 but are only 2.5 games behind the eight seed Los Angeles Clippers, with the Sacramento Kings in between them. However, since James’ injury in the Christmas Day game, the Lakers are 9-15, and they are 4-8 without a healthy Ball.

Still, James does not appear to be concerned, and the superstar is used to turning things on in the playoffs. Last year, James’ Cleveland Cavaliers limped into the playoffs at the No. 4 seed before he made his eighth straight Finals, but now he has to make the postseason first — and hopefully avoid the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

“It’s been activated,” James told reporters on Wednesday. “My level of intensity has to be [high], unfortunately for me, because I don’t like to do it at such an early time. But it’s been activated.”

Although FiveThirtyEight currently rates the Lakers as the eighth-best team at full strength in the West, they are only given a 28 percent chance at making the playoffs. The Clippers — currently 62 percent favorites — may slide out of contention since dealing Tobias Harris, but Ball will be crucial to a playoff push for the Lakers.

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