The Los Angeles Lakers are doing their best to tread water while yet another key player recovers from an injury. Fresh off the team’s 30th win Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, the team held its breath for an update on its starting point guard, and didn’t receive the most encouraging news: Lonzo Ball has made progress, but is ruled out for Friday’s game and will be re-evaluated in about a week:
The Lakers medical staff has determined that while Lonzo Ball continues to make progress towards a return to play, he needs more healing/recovery time due to a bone bruise related to the ankle sprain suffered on Jan. 19. He’s set to be reevaluated by team docs in about a week.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 1, 2019
A week would mean that Ball will miss at least four more games, and only give Ball 17 games left to return in.
And the Lakers desperately need Ball back. For all the noise made about how great Rajon Rondo was as the team’s starting point guard on Wednesday night, he was the only starter to hold a negative net rating at game’s end. While his 16 assists to two turnovers is absolutely worthy of praise, a lot of that impact was negated by his defense, as the Lakers were actually 7 points better while Rondo was on the bench. Ball’s return would allow Rondo to play the role he was signed to fill — backup point guard — and help the team in shorter spurts.
Basically, given the way Brandon Ingram is playing and LeBron James’ presence on the team, all you really need from the point guard is defense and a willingness to shoot when open (and preferably knock down more shots than he misses). Rondo does neither of those things particularly well. Lonzo does at least defends at an incredibly high level.
If the Lakers are going to continue to toy with their small-ball lineups, Ball makes perfect sense, as he’s a good rebounder for his position and can switch to guard either backcourt position, and even hold his own on even larger wings occasionally depending on who the small forward is any given night. Don’t be surprised once Lonzo is back if he, Reggie Bullock, Kyle Kuzma, Ingram and James wind up being the team’s best unit.
These aren’t even just my opinions on the matter, either. LeBron said himself how critical it is that Ball comes back as soon as possible.
Whenever Ball does return, it’s probably going to take some time to get back to how he was playing before he sprained that ankle. Grade 3 sprains are insanely complicated, so hoping that Ball will regain every aspect of his game as soon as he steps back onto the court is probably too much to ask. Getting him back to full health even after his return is going to be a process in and of itself, and one that the Lakers can’t cut any corners with for fear of aggravating that injury. Even if it takes another week to really get that process started.