Just when it looked like LaMelo Ball from the Charlotte Hornets was a lock to win the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year, he saw his first season as a pro come to a halt after suffering a wrist injury against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

LaMelo Ball rookie wrist injury Charlotte Hornets out season
Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball tries to play through the pain of a wrist injury, which occurred against the LA Clippers at Staples Center. (Image: AP)

Ball, the #3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, averaged 16.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game. He began the season as a reserve, but in 21 games as a starter, Ball excelled and averaged 19.5 ppg.

“Melo has adjusted to the NBA game better than any of us ever thought this early in his career,” said Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan. “He has exceeded our expectations so far this season.”

The Hornets confirmed that Ball fractured the bone next to his thumb. He will most likely miss the remainder of the season, especially if he requires surgery.

The Hornets (20-21) lost three in a row and slipped under .500. Without Ball, Buzz City’s playoff hopes are quickly circling the drain. The Hornets currently occupy the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Indiana Pacers (19-22) and Chicago Bulls (19-22) on the bubble.

“This season has been a grind,” said head coach James Borrego. “We’ve got a young group that’s played a lot of minutes, and they continue to show up every night, keep battling and keep playing.”

The Hornets are +25000 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship, according to a recent update by the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

Ball in the Family: Bad Break LaMelo

Ball faced an emotional rollercoaster during his homecoming. Along with his two older brothers — Lonzo and LiAngelo — Ball grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fan. He returned to LA to play his first games as a pro when the Charlotte Hornets hit the road for a swing against Western Conference teams, including games against the Lakers and Clippers.

The Hornets lost to the LA Lakers 116-105 on Thursday, but Ball had a good game with 26 points, seven assists, and five rebounds.

On Saturday, Ball suffered a wrist injury and still logged on 22 minutes in a 125-98 loss against the Clippers. Ball, clearly playing through immense pain, tallied 13 points, five rebounds, three steals, and two assists in the loss.

“We’ve got to try to pick ourselves up here, stay together, stay positive,” said Gordon Hayward.

The Hornets still have Terry Rozier (20.1 ppg), who has been on a tear recently and vying with Hayward (20.3 ppg) as the team’s leading scorer. Rozier is Charlotte’s most effective sniper, shooting nearly 42% from downtown.

Devonte’ Graham (13.2 ppg, 5.2 assists) will also slide into the starting point guard role, which he lost after Ball was named the starter in February.

Ball will seek a second opinion from a doctor this week on whether or not he requires surgery.

On Deck: Spurs and Rockets

Charlotte still has two more games in Texas on their road trip. On Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs (22-7) host the Hornets. The Spurs are fresh off a disappointing loss against Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

On Wednesday, the Hornets have an easy opponent when they face the slumping Houston Rockets (11-30). The Rockets lost 20 games in a row and counting. They set a franchise record during their current losing streak.

The Hornets finally return home to Charlotte later this week. This weekend, the Hornets host the Miami Heat on Friday and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

After two quick games in Buzz City, the Hornets skip town for a six-game road trip against the Eastern Conference, including the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Hornets are +1000 odds to win the Southeast Division crown, which is one of many tight division races at the start of the second half of the season. We liked the Hornets as a value pick to edge out the Miami Heat for the Southeast crown, but that was before the Hornets lost Ball with the wrist injury. At this point, the Miami Heat at -250 odds have the inside track to win another Southeast Division title.