CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak says he’s not ruling out LaMelo Ball returning this season.
Kupchak says the rookie point guard will be reevaluated in “four or five weeks” after fracturing his right wrist on March 20.
If Ball is reevaluated in five weeks on April 27 the Hornets would have about three weeks remaining before the end of the regular season on May 16. Charlotte is in the hunt for a playoff spot, so its season could stretch into late May and beyond.
Kupchak confirmed that the Hornets initially thought Ball’s injury was season-ending, but an MRI later revealed more details and created some optimism about a possible earlier return.
“What (the surgery) doesn’t do is preclude him from coming back this season,” Kupchak said.
Nothing is definitive at this point, and for now the Hornets say they will remain patient. What is largely unclear is how quickly the wrist will heal and how long it would take for the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft to return to basketball shape.
“We have to wait,” Kupchak said. “He’s casted. We’ll wait until five weeks. And we’ll evaluate where we are as a team at that time.”
Kupchak made it clear the Hornets aren’t going to rush him back if he’s not ready.
“What we’re not going to do is put his health in jeopardy,” Kupchak said.
Prior to the injury Ball was considered a frontrunner to win NBA rookie of the year honors.
He is averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.59 steals. He stepped up his production after entering the starting lineup on Feb. 1 following an injury to Devonte Graham, averaging 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 21 starts.
The Hornets (22-21) are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings entering Friday’s night game against the Miami Heat.