Lonzo Ball step closer to return after full-contact Lakers practice

ByOhm Youngmisuk via ESPN logo
Thursday, January 4, 2018

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Point guard Lonzo Ball went through his first full-contact practice since injuring his left shoulder nearly two weeks ago and is hopeful that the Los Angeles Lakers will clear him to play Friday against the Charlotte Hornets.

The rookie said his bruised shoulder still is less than 100 percent but noted that will be the case even when he returns.

The Lakers are listing their point guard as questionable for Friday's home game against Charlotte, although all signs are trending toward his return.

"I felt pretty good," Ball said Thursday. "... It's not 100 [percent], but it's manageable. I'm out here playing and I'm just happy to be back for the most part. ... Hopefully they'll give me the go."

Coach Luke Walton said Ball looked good and "knocked down some big shots" in what was a physical practice. Ball said contact to his shoulder will be his biggest issue.

"I'm going to feel it, but hopefully I can still get out there and play," Ball said. "Mostly just contact, gonna mess with it, other than that I've just got to play through it. ... I think I'll be back before it's 100 [percent], for sure. Like I said, hopefully they'll clear me for tomorrow, but we'll see how it goes."

The Lakers desperately need their point guard to push the pace, rebound and help a slipping defense. Ball, theNo. 2 overall pick in the draft, has missed six straight games since getting tangled up with Portland'sJusuf Nurkic on Dec. 23.

The Lakers (11-26) have lost eight straight games and 11 of their last 12 overall. The team was trounced 133-96 by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. That came after an 18-point loss at Minnesotaon New Year's Day.

"He is a big part of it," Walton said about how much of the losing streak can be attributed to Ball's absence. "He's so much more than just a talented player for us. ... Like we said all along, he makes his teammates better. That is why our organization is so high on him. From the center position to the shooting guard position, everyone plays better when he is out there.

"And one of the surprising strengths that Lonzo has had for us this year is his defense as well. His size, his length, his anticipation, he gets deflections for us. So we have missed him a lot but we still should have been doing a better job even without him on the floor."

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