Hornets have a LaMelo Ball problem, and it's getting significantly worse

Charlotte has a crucial problem surrounding its best player.
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets / Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Things are not nearly as bleak as they may appear to an outsider for the Charlotte Hornets. Yes, the team just completed a season where they won only 21 games, but they did it while hampered by some of the worst injury luck of any team in the association. Charlotte did not play a single game all year where they started and ended the contest with a fully healthy roster.

There is still plenty of talent in the Hornets' locker room to be excited about, and the collective ability of this group will be fully revealed once the injury report is empty once again. Of course, the biggest reason for optimism in Charlotte has typically been the multitalented LaMelo Ball, who remains one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference.

But recently, a troubling trend surrounding LaMelo has only grown more prevalent. Over the course of the last two seasons, Ball has only appeared in 58 out of a possible 164 regular season games due to numerous injuries. Add in the fact that Charlotte just handed the star guard a new five-year, $260 million extension last summer, and the organization has a real dilemma on their hands.

The Hornets obviously need their best player on the floor to be able to live up to their potential. LaMelo's multiple ankle injuries during the 2022-23 season were arguably the main reason the team faltered in Steve Clifford's first season of his second stint as Head Coach. After coming up a game shy of the playoffs in each of the two previous seasons, Charlotte finished with just 27 wins.

LaMelo Ball's health has been in question the last two seasons

In total, Ball suffered four separate ankle sprains or fractures during that season. It was just a devastating stretch for him that ultimately derailed the Hornets' playoff hopes. But following an offseason of rehabbing and getting back to work, many thought he would change the narrative this past season. Unfortunately, it was much of the same for LaMelo and his health.

After an MVP-like outburst in November 2023 where Ball averaged 32.2 points and 8.6 assists over a nine-game stretch, he was once again sidelined with ankle troubles. He was forced to sit until January, when he returned for seven games before needing to sit out with increasing pain in the same right ankle.

Now, some were so frustrated with LaMelo's absence at the end of this past season that they began questioning if he even wanted to play. Ball was sure to shut those ridiculous rumors down. "My favorite thing to do is play basketball," he said at the team's exit interviews. "Not being able to do it is obviously horrible."

His teammates would echo this sentiment as well. But despite LaMelo's clear passion for the game, the problem of him being able to stay on the floor still looms large. He is unquestionably a pillar for this franchise and will play a big part in determining how much the Hornets accomplish in the big picture. If he continues to miss large chunks of time, it could throw a wrench into Charlotte's long-term plans.

With that said, there is still an avenue for this problem to be reversed as well. Stephen Curry also dealt with recurring ankle troubles early in his career, and he overcame them to become the greatest shooter of all time. LaMelo knows the steps he has to take to get stronger and prevent future problems. If he stays true to the process, a reality exists where we forget all about his struggles in the past two years.