sports 3 days ago

Lakers' Ball won't return until after the All-Star break

Los Angeles Times — By Tania Ganguli Los Angeles Times

Feb. 13-- NEW ORLEANS-Lonzo Ball will not play for the Los Angeles Lakers until after the All-Star break, coach Luke Walton said Tuesday.

That means the rookie will have been sidelined for about six weeks because of a sprained knee.

Walton assumes that Ball also will sit out the Rising Stars exhibition Friday night at Staples Center. Although Ball's official status hasn't been determined, it is unlikely that he would play after sitting out the last two Lakers games before All-Star weekend.

Games on Wednesday at New Orleans and Thursday at Minnesota will be the 14th and 15th Ball has sat out because of a medical collateral ligament sprain. He previously sat out six games because of a shoulder sprain.

On Tuesday, Ball participated in practice and took contact with teammates in half-court defensive drills for the first time since suffering the injury. Walton said that Ball was a little sore but was making good progress.

The Lakers did not make Ball available to reporters.

Ball was injured in a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 13. He later returned to the court but experienced more severe pain the next morning. Ball admitted last week that the injury was much more serious than what he initially thought. The Lakers at first said Ball had a "minor knee sprain."

The Lakers plan to stick with the starting lineup they have used for the last five games, with Brandon Ingram at point guard. Isaiah Thomas will again be used as a reserve.

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Veteran help

Twice during Tuesday's news conference, Walton quipped that his newest big man, Channing Frye, never stops talking.

He clarified, both times, that Frye's loquaciousness was actually a good thing.

By adding Frye and Thomas, the Lakers increased their average age significantly. They replaced two 25-year-olds, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., with Frye, 34, and Thomas, 29. Walton already has seen the newcomers use their experience to help teammates.

"I called (Thomas) over one time (during Saturday's game) and said, 'Hey they're starting to blitz you now,' so he's like, 'I already told Brook (Lopez); I already told the guys out here,'" Walton said. "That type of leadership from the point guard position is going to be great for the other guys.

"And then Channing's great. He literally talks all day long. It's positive and it's from doing closeouts with the bigs today about having your left foot a little higher and keeping your arm up. Things that we teach as well but when a teammate that's been in the league 12, 13 years tells you, as well as your coaches, it just speeds things up."

After winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Frye recognizes that isn't the end goal for this team.

"Really, what is my motivation?" Frye said. "What is the thing that's going to get me focused and locked in? It's the experience of helping these kids grow. It's the experience of winning, appreciation of winning. Some of the best years I've had in this league have been with teams that have been counted out. We make the playoffs-or even if we get close-it's exceeding expectations, having fun and growing."

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