The Los Angeles Lakers still have yet to re-evaluate Lonzo Ball, but Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that he will likely miss the rest of the season, something head coach Luke Walton implied was possible at practice on Friday:
Lakers guard Lonzo Ball has a re-evaluation checkup on his ankle today and there’s strong suspicion he’ll also be ruled out the remainder of the season, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) March 9, 2019
Shams Charania of The Athletic later reported that Ball is officially done for the year:
Lakers record since Lonzo Ball went down on Jan. 19: 5-13. Ball had been playing his best basketball when he suffered the Grade 3 ankle sprain against Houston. https://t.co/NgD9ua1WLx— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 10, 2019
Ohm Youngmisuk and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN made it sound like this shouldn’t be a surprise:
This has been expected by some within Lakers for some time, that unfortunately Lonzo Ball was unlikely to return this season due to the injury. Ball and Lakers were hoping things might improve with time. With Lakers out of playoff race, no reason for Ball to return this season https://t.co/eAJQpGEcsw— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 9, 2019
Fresh on the heels of Brandon Ingram being declared out for the rest of the season, the hits just keep coming for the Lakers, who are all-but eliminated from playoff contention.
The team is likely to continue to struggle without Ball, who has been a huge cog in their defense this season and has been sorely missed on that end.
The Lakers are nearly five points per 100 possessions better on defense when Lonzo plays than they are when he sits this season, and the team had the seventh-best defense in the NBA when Ball got injured against the Houston Rockets in January. In the games since Ball went down, they’ve went from allowing 107.3 points per 100 possessions to 116.3, the worst defense in the NBA over that time period.
Not all of the team’s drop-off is due to Ball’s absence, as other factors like the fallout from the trade deadline, a schedule that increased in difficulty, some natural regression to the mean and the fact that the Lakers tried to replace him with Rajon Rondo all negatively impacted the team’s defense as well.
Still, some credit must be given to Ball, who — for the second year in a row — has made the Lakers’ defense significantly better while he was on the floor, something worth noting given that this is also the second-straight year the team has fallen apart when their defense is no longer among the best in the league.
Look, I get it. It’s easy to see the flaws in Ball’s game, from a wonky shooting motion that even a basketball novice could notice was off-kilter — and the lack of respect defenses pay him because of it — to his struggles to finish around the rim (struggles that, to be fair, were getting better before he went down).
All of that noted, it’s still clear as day that Ball can positively impact winning, both with his defense and how he pushes the pace to get his teammates easier transition baskets.
Ball isn’t a perfect player, but he’s a helpful one in the right situation, and at 21 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow. With Ball now all-but-officially set to miss the rest of the season heading into a summer full of trade speculation, now we just have to wait and see if his growth continues with the Lakers or elsewhere next year.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.