Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak leaves open possibility of LaMelo Ball returning this season

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Jacob Rude
·3 min read
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The Charlotte Hornets aren’t ruling out LaMelo Ball for the season, even if the timeline of his return will put him up against the clock. In speaking with the media on Friday morning, Hornets general manager and President of Basketball Operations Mitch Kupchak left the door open for Ball to return before season’s end…with some contingencies.

“Well, initially there were rumors that he would be out for the year,” he said. “And then you look at the world a little bit differently when you hear something like that. Then we heard that after five weeks or four weeks, he’ll be reevaluated and there is a possibility, just based on other players that have had this injury, that maybe he does come back for some portion of the end of the year.”

Ball, who underwent surgery on his wrist in New York by hand specialist Michelle Carlson on Tuesday and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. That alone pushes Ball up against the clock and with rehab after the injury necessary, the clock ticks faster and faster.

“Now, one thing we know we’re not going to do, in any event, is put his health in jeopardy,” Kupchak said. “In other words, if we get to the end of the year and we’re in a playoff hunt and he’s not quite ready or we feel we could push it and get him back on the court, we won’t do that. That makes no sense for us to do that. He’s a big part of what we got going on going forward and we won’t jeopardize his health.”

Kupchak provided a more clear timeline of the diagnosis of Ball’s injury, which saw him originally diagnosed with a sprained wrist before being changed to a fracture requiring surgery. After suffering the injury in Los Angeles, Ball underwent an x-ray that did not show a broken bone.

The team then flew to San Antonio where they performed an MRI on Ball’s wrist that revealed the break. After forwarding those results to the Hornets physician and Carlson, who performed surgery on Cody Zeller’s hand earlier this season, Ball flew to New York to undergo surgery.

Kupchak provided a timeline, admittedly optimistic, of how things could play out moving forward.

“…With young people, they expect, bone to heal in five or six weeks,” he said. “If that’s the case, then the cast would come off, the bone is healed and at that point, it’s a matter of just getting flexibility back in your hand. Those are all very basic and wishful and hopeful turnouts in something like this. It’s not to say that he can’t go six to seven weeks. But what it doesn’t do, it doesn’t preclude him from coming back the season.”

Even if Kupchak and the Hornets are leaving open the possibility of Ball’s return, it’s admittedly optimistic to expect Ball back. Four weeks from Tuesday’s surgery would be April 20, three-and-a-half weeks prior to the end of the regular season.

It leaves zero wiggle room for Ball’s recovery and requires the most optimistic of outlooks, which Kupchak acknowledged on Tuesday..

“…That’s all pie in the sky right now,” he said. “We’ve got to wait. He’s casted and we have to wait until the four weeks expire, and then he’ll get a CAT scan or an MRI and we’ll go from there.”

But the possibility remains of one more incredible storyline to an already fascinating rookie season from Ball.