Here's How LaMelo Ball Fared in His Return to Action

In what was the fanbase’s first reason for optimism this regular season, the Charlotte Hornets welcomed back their star point guard LaMelo Ball last night for his first game action of the year. The 21-year-old has been out with a preseason ankle injury, and he’s not the only one who’s been limping: in his absence, the Hornets had trudged to a 3-10 record out of the gate. It hasn’t helped that the rest of the team has been roughed up as well, with Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin and Dennis Smith Jr. all missing time over the last week.
Ultimately, the final result was much of the same for the Hornets, who dropped a 132-115 contest to the Miami Heat, but there’s much more room for improvement from the roster now that Ball is back and ready to shake off the rust. LaMelo started the game at point guard and immediately made his presence felt in the interior, draining a floater for the Hornet’s first points of the game and showing off the mix of size and finesse that makes him such an excellent scorer. He made a similar shot in the dying seconds of the first quarter. In the fourth, he showed off his handles and vision with a dangerous fake and a nifty pass in one possession.

It wasn’t all positive, though. The Hornets were predictably conservative with LaMelo’s playing time, subbing him out after just 7 minutes before letting him back on near the end of the first quarter. In total, Ball played just 28 minutes, but this also had to do with his 5 personal fouls, showing that the youngster is still getting acclimatizing to the rhythm and intensity of real games. He finished the game with a line of 15/6/6 on an inefficient 6-17 shooting, going just 1-9 from three. Another positive was his ball security, as he had just two turnovers. His +/- mark of -18 looks ugly, but it was right in line with the rest of the Hornets starters.

LaMelo’s return may not have been enough to right the ship for the Hornets, who have now lost 8 straight games and 9 of their last 10, but the third year guard showed plenty of positive signs. Once the rest of the roster gets healthy and starts to gel, expect Charlotte to turn things up a notch and make a run at an Eastern Conference playoff spot.  

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