UPDATE: Lonzo Ball will reportedly miss Thursday’s game against the Sacramento Kings and is still day-to-day to return to the Lakers lineup. Original story follows.
Lonzo Ball has been brought along extremely conservatively by the Los Angeles Lakers not only this preseason, but dating back to his rookie campaign. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably a great sign that the team feels comfortably to potentially have him ready to return from his recovery from meniscus surgery Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings.
“He practiced today, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning at shootaround. If he’s feeling great then, hey, maybe we’ll play him very limited minutes, but that’s gonna be decided tomorrow,” Walton told reporters at the Lakers’ Wednesday practice.
As mentioned above, the Lakers are still going to be exceedingly careful with their second-year point guard. Given the way minutes have played out thus far in the two preseason games they have played, this should be perfectly fine. All that matters at this juncture is how Ball and LeBron James look together. As James hasn’t played beyond the second quarter in either game, the Lakers can get that initial picture and still keep Lonzo on a decent minutes restriction.
What will be interesting to find out is whether Walton will start Lonzo so as to a) get him minutes with James right away and b) not let his surgically repaired knee stiffen up after going through pre-game warmups.
It should be pointed out, though, that several Lakers have been wearing some kind of stimulation machine on the bench this offseason. They’re by no means alone in wearing this kind of device, but if Walton wants to keep the starters as he’s seen them thus far, Ball can wear one such device on his knee and remain warm for whenever he enters the game.
All this is nowhere near as important as Ball being healthy enough to play in a game setting. Having him 100 percent as soon as possible is going to be absolutely crucial for a team that is going to play as fast as the Lakers have thus far (fourth-highest pace of any team in the preseason, per NBA.com).
Ball’s defensive abilities will help the Lakers get out in transition and, at the very least, him being another NBA-caliber player to maintain the quality of play the Lakers are hoping to see consistently will help by itself.
We’ll provide updates as they come, as this situation has been very fluid from the get-go, so stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll.