When Lonzo Ball was drafted into the league back in 2017, the weight of the world was on his shoulders as his father LaVar was touting him as the second coming of Magic Johnson. Considering Ball was drafted to the Lakers, these were massive shoes to fill and it immediately became clear that such pressure was simply too much for the young player. While Lonzo remained a solid talent in the league, many scouts and fans were shifting their attention to Lonzo’s youngest brother LaMelo who, at the time, was playing with his brother LiAngelo in Lithuania.
By all accounts, it was clear that LaMelo was the most talented Ball brother. From his passing to his shooting and to even his defense, LaMelo could do it all, and every time he stepped onto the court, it seemed like he was putting up otherworldly statistics. He eventually went and played in Australia for the Illawarra Hawks where, once again, he proved himself to be the most talented player in his 2020 Draft class. Due to positional need from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors, LaMelo was passed up in the first two picks and eventually went third to the Charlotte Hornets, where he now gets to play for the legendary Michael Jordan.
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With LaVar making even more bold assertions about LaMelo, many were worried that he would face the same fate as his brother. In pre-season, LaMelo was making some beautiful highlight reel passes although he struggled to score and his shooting was not very accurate, to say the least. In his first career NBA start, Melo struggled mightily and it immediately led some to ring the alarm bells. Fortunately for the Hornets, the NBA, and all of the fans, a beat was awoken inside of LaMelo and he quickly became the most exciting part of the season. You see, due to the shortened offseason, the NBA’s product this season has been fairly uninspired. It’s clear that the players are tired and the plethora of injuries to teams like the Lakers are living proof that the NBA should have started in February as opposed to December.
LaMelo, however, had all the time to prepare for this season and his energy was truly infectious. Every single night, LaMelo was giving us highlight-reel passes, while improving his scoring ability. In some games, LaMelo was able to explode for an impressive 30 points, and garnered praise from the likes of LeBron James and Draymond Green. Not to mention, these results were helping his Hornets get deep into the playoff race, especially with the Eastern Conference proving to be full of parity in terms of the mid-pack teams. Every single thing Melo did pointed to him being the obvious favorite to win the Rookie of the Year. Sure, Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton have been good, but no rookie has shown more superstar potential than LaMelo. Ball has been averaged 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game this season and there is no doubt that these numbers will only improve over time.
Unfortunately, LaMelo hit a horrendous setback on March 21st, just a day after LeBron James suffered an ankle injury. While going for a layup, Ball fell awkwardly on his wrist and ended up fracturing it. At first, it was reported that LaMelo would have to miss the rest of the season, although now it is believed that Melo will be able to come back in early May. Despite this good news, it’s safe to say that Melo will be put on a minutes restriction for a few games and even at that, there still won’t be much time left in the season. While his Hornets have put up a solid fight, this does not help them in the playoff race, especially since they are on the verge of being overtaken for eighth place. Sure, getting LaMelo back will certainly help them, however, coming off of a wrist injury isn’t exactly easy when you’re a basketball player.
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Perhaps the worst part for LaMelo from a personal standpoint is the fact that his Rookie Of The Year case has now been tampered with. If he isn’t able to come back at full strength, then players like Tyrese Haliburton and Anthony Edwards will most likely be put ahead of him. One would just have to go back to last season when Ja Morant won Rookie Of The Year over Zion Williamson, despite Zion’s dominance when he did play. Overall, Morant had more games to choose from and that’s ultimately why he won. The very same thing could happen to LaMelo, which would certainly be a shame.
Prior to his injury, LaMelo was having a rookie season that we seldom get to see in the NBA. It was one of the most exciting things fans got to see in a very long time and for once in the team’s history, the Charlotte Hornets were actually relevant. Fans outside of North Carolina were tuning in to see Hornets games just to see Ball play, which is exactly what small-market teams like to see. Now, the Hornets are fading back to obscurity, and they’re going to have to rely on rushing LaMelo back if they want to regain some of that juice.
This NBA season has been one of the worst in recent memory. The players are physically and emotionally exhausted, while the league’s best players are getting injured on a nightly basis. Through no fault of his own, LaMelo was given the tall task of carrying the entire season and while he was well on his way to doing so, fate had other plans. Even if he does come back, it just won’t be the same. With the schedule so overloaded with games in order to get the season in before July, Melo risks aggravating his injury, and if he were to somehow gets hurt again, then the season will be that much worse off. Ball’s rookie season could have been one to remember and in some ways, there is still hope that he can fulfill that prophecy. For now, however, fans will just have to settle for quite possibly one of the most depressing seasons in professional sports history.