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Lonzo Ball to miss 4-6 weeks as Lakers’ injuries continue to mount

first_imgWithout him, the Lakers frittered away a 15-point lead and lost in overtime.“When he went down it’s hard to do it, hard to have someone do the stuff he was doing,” Zubac said. “It’s tough, and he was moving the ball with him, we were sharing. He was running the pick and roll perfect. He was finding open shooters. It’s just tough without him. He’s a great basketball player.”Now, Ball is another player that the Lakers will have to do without. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions 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 Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img LOS ANGELES — Thanks to Greg Zuerlein, at least one L.A. pro athlete had some good news come from his foot on Sunday afternoon.For the Lakers, Lonzo Ball’s left ankle brought only heartache.An MRI on Sunday revealed that Ball, the second-year point guard who has stepped up his play of late, will now be sidelined four to six weeks with a Grade 3 sprain suffered Saturday night in a loss to the Houston Rockets. The injury will not require surgery, but it will rob the Lakers of their best remaining play-maker on an already beat-up squad.The team (25-22) has been through the ringer with injuries this season: Both LeBron James (strained left groin) and Rajon Rondo (sprained right ring finger) are expected to return to practice this week after missing 13 straight games since Christmas. Neither is expected to play Monday against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersWith Ball now out for extended time, the three playmakers and ball-handlers that the Lakers have touted as a strength since before the season are all unable to suit up. The Lakers have gone 5-8 without James, their star, and Rondo, a key veteran, and Ball was a big reason they were able to scrape out any wins at all in that stretch and stay afloat in the middle of the packed Western Conference standings.A familiar gut-wrenching feeling struck the team in the third quarter when Ball tumbled after awkwardly rolling his ankle. He rolled on the court in apparent agony for several moments before teammates carried him to the locker room without bearing any weight on his injured foot.“‘Zo is really finding himself a nice rhythm,” Walton said Saturday night after Ball had been taken to a Houston hospital for X-rays. “We’ll miss that and the continuity but we’ll keep our heads up and keep grinding.”While Ball’s per-game production has decreased in his sophomore season as he took a more supporting role alongside James, he’s been one of the key leaders since Christmas. In the past 13 games, Ball had been averaging 12.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range.The last seven games in particular, during which the Lakers have been 4-3, seemed to mark a kind of turning point for Ball, whom teammates had said was more active, engaged and vocal to fill the vacuum left by James and Rondo. Brandon Ingram called him “the head of our team” in the past few weeks. “I think in these last three or four games, he’s been very consistent in what he does,” Ingram said. “And he continues to bring the energy, starts picking up [defense for] 94 feet, pushing the pace in transition, and it goes from there.”As of Sunday afternoon, the Lakers sat a game behind the Clippers for ninth in the West, a spot out of playoff position. They have five straight games upcoming at Staples Center with only one clearly vulnerable opponent: Golden State, Minnesota, Phoenix, Philadelphia and the Clippers. From there, they’ll embark on their longest road trip of the year leading into the All-Star break beginning Feb. 14.The situation infuses even more urgency into a looming question: How soon can James, in particular, return?Walton said Ball’s injury won’t push up the timeline for anyone else’s recovery. James is in the midst of the most serious injury of his career, already having tied the most games (13) he’s ever missed in any of his 16 NBA seasons. The Lakers have already missed his scoring punch and end-of-game poise — with Ball out, they’ll miss his play-making ability even more.Rondo was cleared for full-contact practice over the weekend, but has still been wearing a wrap around his middle and ring fingers on his right hand.If neither is able to play soon, the Lakers are likely to turn to Ingram as a point forward, which Walton has done already in the past month with James on the shelf. It would also require some extra ball-handling duties for Lance Stephenson, who had a strong second half against the Rockets, but hasn’t been an offensive focal point for much of the year.Ball’s absence for the Lakers’ defense is less tangible but potentially just as important. Even with James and Rondo out, the Lakers have sported the NBA’s third-best defensive rating (105.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the last 13 games. Ivica Zubac pointed out that Ball’s defense was invaluable Saturday night when the Lakers were trying to guard James Harden, and then he was able to convert stops into points on the other end.Related Articles How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years last_img read more