Everything was coming together for the Charlotte Hornets thanks to rookie LaMelo Ball. Even though their second West Coast swing in a month was off to an 0-2 start, the perennial NBA also-rans remained within striking distance of a first-round bye in the playoffs.
And then their hopes were shattered just like their emerging star’s right wrist.
Charlotte Hornets hero LaMelo Ball is out indefinitely
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, the leading contender for Rookie of the Year, is unlikely to return to the NBA team this season after breaking his right wrist, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Ball, 19, suffered the injury when he fell on the court during Charlotte’s 125-98 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday.
He won’t be officially ruled out until being examined by a specialist in New York City this week, but an MRI revealed a fractured bone in the area of the thumb on the rookie’s shooting hand.
Ball came to the Hornets as the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA draft behind Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. Charlotte coach James Borrego had done a masterful job in bringing the 6-foot-6 guard along.
Ball came off the bench in his first 20 games, averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 assists in 25 minutes of action a night. He was shooting 43.1% overall and 29.9% on 3-pointers. In 21 games as a starter since, he has averaged 19.5 points and 6.2 assists in 32 minutes a game. The big difference in his game is Ball’s overall field-goal percentage (46.4) and his 3-point accuracy (42.6) as a starter.
LaMelo Ball’s devastating injury confirms the Charlotte Hornets are a cursed NBA team
The Charlotte Hornets were a modest 11-9 with LaMelo Ball as their starting point guard entering Saturday’s lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. However, that constituted progress, especially in the weaker Eastern Conference. Now sitting at 20-21, Charlotte will have to scratch and claw to remain in the postseason hunt, likely as one of the conference’s four play-in qualifiers.
It’s yet another frustrating development for Charlotte fans, who haven’t witnessed a playoff game since 2016 or advancement out of the first round since the original Hornets franchise in 2002.
The first potential sign of trouble this season came when Charlotte acquired Gordon Hayward from the Boston Celtics in a four-year, $120 million sign-and-trade only to see him break a finger in the preseason. The good news is that Hayward was ready for the opener and has been earning his keep at 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.
If only the Hornets had been as fortunate with their draft picks over the years. Since acquiring minority ownership in 2006 and then taking full control in 2010, Michael Jordan has misfired repeatedly on picks. Other than Kemba Walker, now with the Celtics, Jordan hasn’t found one consistent scorer.
The issues actually go back to original owner Robert Johnson. He was never able to overcome the curse of the city’s original expansion team, which played in back-to-back conference semifinals only to bolt to New Orleans in 2002.
Two moments sum up the curse
Michael Jordan bought his minority interest in the Charlotte Hornets (known at the time as the Bobcats) and became the head of basketball operations two weeks before the 2006 NBA draft, but Robert Johnson was still calling the shots.
Picking third overall, the Hornets took Adam Morrison, who had just led Gonzaga to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Morrison was out of the league after three seasons and 161 games. Players who were still on the board when the Hornets took him included Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick, and Rajon Rondo.
Worse yet was some flat-out bad luck in 2012. Coming off a historically bad 7-59 record in a strike-shortened season, even the Hornets weren’t going to be foolish enough to pass on Kentucky star Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for them, they slipped to second in the draft lottery and had to settle for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who started 356 games before being waived in February 2020.
The kicker to the story. The first pick in the draft went to the New Orleans Pelicans – the original NBA team in Charlotte. The Pelicans didn’t have to think twice about drafting Davis.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.