LaMelo Paul considering ankle braces after injury-riddled seasons

LaMelo Ball is averaging 23.9 points and 8.0 assists in 22 games during the 2023-24 season.

CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) – LaMelo Ball is considering wearing ankle braces again.

Ankle problems have limited Ball to just 58 games over the past two seasons and hasn't played for the Charlotte Hornets since Jan. 26. The 2022 All-Star point guard knows this.

„I'm going to take a look in the summer and try some things,” Ball said of the protective braces.

If he finds something that feels good, he said, „we'll go from there.”

After three separate ankle injuries sidelined him for extended periods in 2022-23, which ultimately resulted in surgery. But he couldn't find anything completely comfortable on his feet.

The ankle feels better now and Paul is finally looking forward to being healthy this summer and working on his game.

„My favorite thing to do is play basketball and not being able to do that would be devastating,” Paul said. „What I got this summer (to stay healthy), I'm going to take it and be as strong as I can to go out there and play.”

Ball, just 22 years old, signed a rookie max contract extension last summer that will pay him up to $260 million over the next five seasons.

So he's a cornerstone in Charlotte.

When healthy, he averaged 23.9 points, eight assists and 5.1 rebounds this season while shooting 36% from beyond the arc.

The Hornets hope that if they put the ball on the court and pair with three-time NBA rookie Brandon Miller, they can snap their eight-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA.

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„He gets our team going,” Hornets center Nick Richards said. „Having him on the court is very important to us.”

Paul said he feels like the Hornets have a great team, but „we need everybody to play.”

Ball wasn't the only one injured for the Hornets as starting center Mark Williams and guard Cody Martin missed significant time. Gordon Hayward struggled with injuries before being traded. Williams has struggled with injuries but has vowed to be ready for next season.

The Hornets will have a new coach after Steve Clifford steps down.

Not having the ball in games has frustrated Hornets fans, and the No. 3 pick in 2020 has drawn a lot of criticism for his lack of durability.

But teammate Miles Bridges said Paul is very competitive and plans to play at least 75 games next season.

„LaMelo wants to be on the court,” Bridges said. “People think he doesn't want to be in court and wants to wear his jewelry on the side. But he wants to be on the court and he wants to win. He knows how important he is to this organization and this will be a big summer for him.

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