It was an encouraging practice for Lonzo Ball and the Lakers, as the rookie point guard returned as a full participant after missing six games due to a sprained left shoulder.
The 20-year-old did not feign perfect health, but he did express a desire to play in Friday’s contest against Charlotte, for which he is listed as questionable.
“It’s not 100 (percent), but it’s manageable,” Ball said after Thursday’s contact-heavy practice.
The Lakers have certainly missed Ball — a player who affects every aspect of the game — losing all six contests in which he has sat.
The rookie is eighth in the entire NBA in assists (7.1) and leads his team in rebounding (6.9). He has been a positive defender all season and improved his shooting to 45.0 percent from 3-point range over his last six appearances.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have suffered on both sides of the ball without him.
Their pace and ball movement have bogged down with their point guard injured. Even more concerning, their typically formidable defense has surrendered a league-high 124.3 points per game in this stretch.
Coach Luke Walton said that the Lakers have “missed him a lot.”
“He’s so much more than just a talented player for us,” Walton said. “He’s a guy that, like we’ve said all along, makes his teammates better. It’s why our organization’s so high on him.”
Ball doesn’t expect his range of motion to be limited much by his injury, but he does know that he’s going to feel some pain when he does return to the floor.
“It’s going to be there,” Ball said. “I’m going to feel it.”