Ball, a rookie guard for the Charlotte Hornets, had been considered the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, widely considered the leading candidate to win the N.B.A.’s Rookie of the Year Award, has a fractured bone in his right wrist and is out indefinitely, the team announced on Sunday night.
Ball underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Sunday in San Antonio as the Hornets prepared for a road game against the Spurs on Monday and is feared to be lost for the season. Ball, 19, had a hard landing on the wrist on Saturday night after a drive to the basket in the first half of the team’s road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. A Southern California native, Ball tried to play through the pain in the second half with the wrist covered by a protective wrap.
Ball’s injury was the latest for marquee players around the league in recent days. The Los Angeles Lakers, already playing without the injured Anthony Davis, lost LeBron James indefinitely after James sustained a high ankle sprain in Saturday’s loss to Atlanta. Earlier in the week, Golden State lost Stephen Curry (tailbone contusion) and Draymond Green (ankle) to injuries.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Hornets Coach James Borrego said on Monday when discussing Ball’s injury with reporters. “It hit everybody hard. Everybody loves this kid. He’s at the core of our organization.”
Drafted third over all by the Hornets in November, Ball is averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.59 steals per game; he ranks seventh in the league in steals per game. Combined with strong play from the free-agent newcomer Gordon Hayward and the second-year Hornet Terry Rozier — both former Boston Celtics — Ball has helped Charlotte challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after four consecutive seasons out of the postseason.
Ball became a starter on Feb. 1 in Miami and has averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals since the move. Amid much skepticism leading up to the draft about his ability to convert from the perimeter, Ball has shot 46.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3-point range in his 21 starts.
Michael Jordan, the Hornets’ owner, recently told The Associated Press: “I think Melo has adjusted to the N.B.A. game better than any of us ever thought this early in his career. He has exceeded our expectations so far this season.”
Ball was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in both January and February, and was the only rookie over the past 60 years to lead all first-year players in total points, rebounds, assists and steals at the All-Star break.
If Ball is unable to play again this season, he will have appeared in 41 of Charlotte’s scheduled 72 games — nearly 57 percent. Patrick Ewing won Rookie of the Year honors in 1985-86 with the fewest number of games played in league history, appearing in 50 of the Knicks’ 82 games (nearly 61 percent) that season.
The younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball was selected by the Hornets in the 2020 draft, after Minnesota drafted guard Anthony Edwards and Golden State chose center James Wiseman.
Lonzo Ball, currently in his fourth N.B.A. season after the Lakers drafted him No. 2 over all in 2017, is one of the most coveted players in advance of Thursday’s trade deadline. The New York Times reported Friday that the Clippers were among the teams that have pursued him.