Ball returning to starting lineup after missing 21 games

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LaMelo Ball is ready to return to the Charlotte Hornets’ starting lineup following a 21-game absence.

Hornets coach James Borrego said the NBA rookie of the year candidate will start Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons. The No. 3 pick in last year’s NBA draft has not played since breaking his wrist on March 20 and undergoing surgery to repair the fracture.

Borrego said guard Malik Monk will also return after missing 15 games with an ankle injury.

“I don’t have a specific number of minutes in mind,” Borrego said of how much they will play. “The biggest thing are the runs they are going to have out there, probably four- to five-minute runs. I don’t think it will be anything past a five-minute run. How many of those runs, I’m not quote sure yet.”

Borrego said Ball will start in place of Devonte Graham.

Ball is averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game this year and was named the NBA rookie of the month three times before being sidelined by the injury. Borrego believes Ball is deserving of NBA rookie of the year honors.

“I’m excited that he gets a chance to continue that season and not have it cut short as it potential could have,” Borrego said.

Borrego said he is thrilled to get both players back in time for a playoff push.

The Hornets (30-32) had been as high as fourth in the Eastern Conference standings before injuries to Ball, Monk and Gordon Hayward, who is still out with a sprained foot. Charlotte enters the night in eighth place in the East with 10 games to play.

Borrego said Ball “has has a major impact on our winning this season.”

“We will see how these two guys will look,” Borrego said. “They have been off for a while and I don’t know what to expect tonight. Some guys hit the ground running and some others take a few games to find their rhythm.”

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