Lakers guard Lonzo Ball frustrated by injury, but optimistic about recovery

first_imgEL SEGUNDO – Lonzo Ball has never broken a bone before. Last Saturday as he tumbled to the court, he thought his time had finally come.His left ankle spun toward the court on an awkward step. Even after watching the replay, he couldn’t say with certainty whether he stepped on his defender’s foot, or whether it was just a strange twist on its own.“It happened kind of fast,” Ball said. “I remember my leg pretty much just going like that and kind of popping out. That’s what it was.”Ball feared the worst, needing to be carried back to the locker room by teammates on that fateful evening in Houston. When he learned that it was a sprain — a serious sprain, but a sprain nonetheless — he felt a little lighter. The Lakers have yet to win since he was hurt, dropping three straight games, which is all the more frustrating to Ball, who acknowledged he thought the last few games before he got hurt were some of best.But Ball seemed to target the All-Star Break, when the Lakers will have 25 games left, as the time when he thinks the team will have a chance to be fully healthy.“It’s tough,” he said. “You’re asking people to play out of position. You’re asking people to play more minutes than usually they play. And we’ve never really had a full team for the whole year. So hopefully after All-Star we can all come together and go on a nice little run.” James participates in contact drillsIt’s been a month since Luke Walton has seen LeBron James taking a hit.That finally happened on Saturday during Lakers practice, as James participated for the first time in defensive contact drills with the team. It’s the most James has done on the court with the Lakers since Dec. 25, when he strained his left groin against the Golden State Warriors.While James won’t play Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, taking contact is the most hopeful sign yet in a rehabilitation process that has stretched well beyond what the Lakers first hoped. James will miss his 16th straight game Sunday, and the Lakers have gone 5-10 without him so far.“This was the first time he’s been out there in the part of practice that involved that type of movement,” Walton said. “He looked good. He’s still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering.”The Lakers were forced, however, to pare down their practice schedule with a cap on healthy bodies. Kyle Kuzma (hip strain) did not participate, and remains questionable for Sunday’s game. Josh Hart didn’t appear on the official injury report, but trainers told Walton before practice that he has had issues with on of his knees, and it would be best not to have contact Saturday.Related Articles AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersSo while Ball, now a week removed from his injury against the Rockets and now perhaps three to five weeks out from a return, was admittedly frustrated by the setback, the 21-year-old point guard has a sunnier outlook than he started with.“This is bad timing: I thought I was playing pretty good basketball, finding my rhythm,” he said. “Fortunately I don’t get to miss the whole year. I’ll be back and try to get back into the swing of things.”That time is still hard to imagine: While Ball got off his crutches Friday, he’s still mostly keeping his leg elevated and icing it. He can do some work in the weight room, and he can watch as much film as he wants, but that’s it.Ball said it helps, in one sense, that he’s missed time before as a rookie. He’s picked up best practices from that experience, and he’s learned more this season from watching LeBron James and Rajon Rondo go through extended absences.“ I looked at it like I get to watch a lot more film,” he said. “You get to get a little bit bigger in the weight room now. Stay sharp, eating right and stay locked into the game. Don’t let your mind wander too many places.” Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers “We gotta get guys healthy to be able to perform in games,” Walton said. “It’s a balancing act because we know we need guys to practice and  get better at things but we also know when you’re down in numbers like we are you also can’t push them too hard and not have them fresh for a game.”Walton said he hoped that Kuzma’s hip would loosen up with two days in between games, but that he doesn’t want him to play through stiffness the way he did against Minnesota. Kuzma was just 4 for 12 in that game, and was limited on the glass and on defense.“The main thing is to me, when you’re not moving right, you’re more likely to get hurt anyways,” he said. “We can’t have him getting hurt. He’s a tough kid, I know he wants to play. If he can, he will.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions last_img

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