Charlotte Hornets rookie star LaMelo Ball has a broken bone in his right wrist that could cost him the rest of the season.
Ball injured that wrist on his dominant hand in Saturday’s road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He was clearly favoring the injury, and was pulled from the game intermittently by coach James Borrego, in response to obvious discomfort.
An X-ray taken in Los Angeles on Saturday did not detect the fracture. An MRI taken in San Antonio, where the Hornets will play the Spurs Monday night, revealed the broken bone near Ball’s thumb.
The Hornets are saying Ball is out indefinitely. A source familiar with the injury said it’s possible Ball could miss the remainder of the season.
Ball has had a spectacular season as the No. 3 overall draft pick, leading this rookie class in most significant statistical categories much of the season. He averages 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
He made his first start Feb. 1 in Miami, filling in for injured guard Terry Rozier. He played so well that he’s since made 21 consecutive starts.
Ball, 19, became the youngest player in NBA history to assemble a triple-double when he finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a Jan. 9 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
As coach James Borrego said that night, “A 19-year-old rookie does not look like this. This is rare what you’re seeing.”
Ball’s ascension meant moving Devonte Graham to the second unit following the All-Star break. Ball’s injury likely returns Graham to the starters, and probably means an expanded bench role for Malik Monk and possibly Cody and Caleb Martin.
Ball took a fall in the Clippers game, and kept holding and rubbing his right wrist off-and-on. He seemed to favor his right hand, making several long passes with his left hand. He played the second half with a wrap around his wrist that extended around his thumb.
Ball won the first two Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards, and was clearly tops in this rookie class the first half of the season. Of late, Minnesota Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick, has come on strong with several huge scoring games.
An extended absence by Ball could make the Rookie of the Year vote close, where a month ago it seemed Ball might win that award in a landslide.
Ball has had the most impact as a rookie in franchise history since Larry Johnson won Rookie of the Year in 1991.