The Los Angeles Lakers have been without Lonzo Ball for 11 games as he works back from an MCL sprain in his left knee, and the team has ruled him out when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night. The Lakers are enjoying one of their best stretches of the season, winning 11 of their last 15 games and seven straight at STAPLES Center.
Ball spoke with media during practice Wednesday, giving a fairly detailed update on the injury, where he’s at from a process standpoint, and how he’s dealing with being forced to the sidelines.
“It’s pretty tough,” Ball said of the long process of waiting. “It’s the most games I’ve ever missed in my whole life, but it’s always good seeing my teammates win. Especially in front of a home crowd, which was definitely good last night. Just doing what I can to be a good teammate and support them.”
Ball noted that he suffered a minor setback during some of the exercises he was doing with the training staff in Toronto, forcing them to scaled things back completely. His comfort level with his knee has “been progressing since,” though he also noted he still can’t go into a full sprint or jump.
The No. 2 pick was hopeful he could go into advanced movement drills with coach Miles Simon, who he’s been working with throughout the recovery process. Weeks after suffering the knee injury, he’s hoping to do one-dribble and two-dribble pull-ups as a mark of progression. It’s safe to say this process has been longer than anyone anticipated after he reported feeling soreness in his knee said he never felt before.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this serious, to be honest. After I did it I felt it, but it went away like I said and it didn’t come back until the next day. Now where where, so...” Ball said, trailing off before stating the obvious.
The time on the sidelines has allowed Ball a chance to focus on being an observer on the outside, along with another benefit he sees.
“For me right now, I can see the game from a different point of view and I’m seeing what we need to work on, and what we’re doing great, so that’s good for me. And the guys are learning how to play without me, they’re doing very good out there ...
“They know what works. Pace and defense. We’ve been doing that, and that’s why we’ve been winning,” Ball said.
The Lakers head out on a three-game road trip following their outing against the Thunder. They’ll then get to enjoy the All-Star break in Los Angeles, though Ball is one of four Lakers with a role in the festivities. Whether he’ll be ready and able to play in the Rising Stars Game is something to keep an eye on with only a few games left until the league takes a breather.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com