LaMelo Ball shows the Hornets exactly what they were missing in the return leg against the Pistons
After missing 21 games with a wrist injuryHornets rookie LaMelo Ball joined the starting lineup on Saturday night against the Pistons – and didn’t take much time to make his presence felt.
Just minutes after the contest started at the Spectrum Center, Ball threw an absurdly sneaky pass from the free throw line to the opposite baseline, giving Miles Bridges an easy layup. The superb penny elicited a “Welcome back, LaMelo!” yell out of Hornets play-by-play announcer Eric Collins.
NBA RANKING: Ranking scenarios, allocation for playoff spots
But it wasn’t just Collins who got a shot of adrenaline from Ball’s comeback.
The 19-year-old filled the stat sheet in Charlotte’s 107-94 win over Detroit, totaling 11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 28 minutes. Ball’s teammates seemed invigorated by his activity and energy, a welcome addition for a Hornets team that had lost eight of their previous 12 games.
“It’s great to see him again because you know he’s a great passer. He involves everyone. His energy is contagious,” Bridges said after the game. “So, it’s great to have Melo back. The sneak pass was crazy. You have to have first-rate confidence to pull something like that out. He threw it right in my pocket. find it.”
Hornets coach James Borrego didn’t necessarily expect Ball to play close to 30 minutes in his first game since March 20, but he believed Ball handled the initial workload “pretty well” .
“I think you never know how someone is going to react in this free time. If there’s one guy who can come back and not miss a beat, it’s Melo,” Borrego said. “He just has that instinct, that feeling. It didn’t really surprise me. I think I wasn’t sure about the conditioning until he was there, but he looked pretty good. over there.
“He’s got another equipment, another level to reach in his conditioning, but if there’s one guy, Melo is one of those guys who just has a great instinct and feel it no matter when he plays.”
Entering Saturday’s game list, the Hornets were clinging to the No.8 seed with a small gap separating them from the No.9 Pacers and No.10 Wizards. Positioning is important ahead of the NBA play-in tournament, as the No.7 and 8 teams in each conference could lose a play-in game while reaching the playoffs, while the No.9 and 10 teams are eliminated with a loss.
Getting Ball to be, as Borrego said, the “back-to-the-gym jerk” could make all the difference for Charlotte in the regular season home stretch.