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Did You Know That… Lonzo Ball views his follow dunk in Portland as a turning point for him health-wise?

Portland TV play-by-play man Kevin Calabro is one of the NBA’s premier broadcasters, but for a moment during a Dec. 23 game vs. New Orleans, he mistook a 6-foot-6 point guard for arguably the league’s most athletic center, a 6-foot-11 rookie who regularly jumps out of the gym. You can forgive Calabro for the minor error, however, because when Lonzo Ball leaped for a third-quarter putback slam, he surprised pretty much everyone in Moda Center, including Pelicans teammate Kenrich Williams.

After Jrue Holiday fired a three-point attempt from the right wing, no Trail Blazer boxed out a crashing Ball, who reeled in Holiday’s miss, jumped over Williams’ back and threw down a nasty dunk. On the air, Calabro exclaimed “Hayes!“ referring to 6-11 Jaxson Hayes, before Trail Blazers analyst Lamar Hurd pointed out, “No, that’s Lonzo Ball.” Calabro: “That was Ball… looking like Hayes. Man oh man!”

Nearly four months later, Ball recalls that memorable play as perhaps the moment he realized he was headed to a full recovery from the ankle injury that cut short his 2018-19 season with the Lakers. The injury also prevented him from having a normal offseason, as he prepared to debut with New Orleans.

“It was just my body. I was still kind of hurting from last year, with my ankle,” Ball said on teammate JJ Redick’s podcast of Ball’s in-season progress. “I was waiting for that to come around. Around that time (in late December), my game finally started opening up and I could run a little faster.

“For me, when I caught that tip jam in Portland, I knew I was starting to feel a little better. So that’s kind of when it turned around for me.”

The same is also true for New Orleans (28-36), which entered the Dec. 23 game in Oregon sporting a 7-23 record, but went 21-13 from there. The Pelicans compiled the NBA’s ninth-best winning percentage over that stretch, behind eight clubs that were all locks to make the playoffs (Milwaukee had the best mark at 26-8).

Individually, Ball produced many of the best games of his NBA career after the dunk in Portland and drastically upped his three-point accuracy. Among the five games in which the third-year pro sank at least five three-pointers this season, all of them took place Dec. 29 or later. He set a career high with seven treys in a win over Houston on Dec. 29, then matched that twice during a March 3-4 back-to-back vs. Minnesota and Dallas. Team-wise, New Orleans was the NBA’s sixth-best offensive team and 10th in defensive rating over the 34 games it played from Dec. 23 through the suspension of the regular season.

“I just think at the beginning of the year, we had a brand-new team,” Ball said on Redick’s podcast. “We didn’t really know what our spots, positions and roles were. After we finally got past that, and the injuries, the (tough early) schedule, ever since then, things started coming together. Gradually, we just started clicking. It started to get fun.”