Even though LaMelo Ball has only appeared in 162 matches during his first three campaigns in the NBA, he’s just reached an agreement on a five-year, $260 million max contract extension with the Hornets. With injury after injury limiting the 21-year-old’s potential, the player expects to return stronger than ever this next season.
The former No. 3 overall pick decided to remain loyal to a Charlotte roster that’s slowly rebuilding itself with rising stars, as they recently added top prospect Brandon Miller and are re-hiring foward Miles Bridges.
The young point guard recently averaged 23.3 points per contest in the 2022/23 season, and positioned himself as the squad’s leader, even though he missed the last 15 games of the tournament due to a fractured ankle which happened during a crossover dribble against Detroit.
“It’s a big summer and I’m just trying to get back healthy,” Ball said during his exit interviews just a couple of months ago. “I’m looking forward to next season. Just listening to the trainers and going from there.”
Nevertheless, that wasn’t the only health issue he suffered during the last campaign, as he’d missed the first 13 matches with a Grade 2 sprain in his left ankle, after a preseason clash against the Wizards’ Anthony Gill.
Just three games after he finally made his season debut, the 21-year-old aggravated the same injury. “Take it as learning lessons,” he said back in April when reminded about his constant health problems. “(You) can’t really get too down on yourself.”
Now that he’s guaranteed he will stay in North Carolina, he hopes to help deliver the promise that new teammate Brandon Miller told fans of contending for the NBA title next season.
“Hopefully, we will get there and get the big trophy in the end,” the draft’s No. 2 overall pick had expressed to the Charlotte fanbase.
As the Hornets missed their seventh-playoff run in a row, coach Steve Clifford feared LaMelo would leave
Back in April, LaMelo Ball was interrogated about his future with the Hornets, as the star guard was only able to say that he “plays it by the day.” By that point, all he really cared about was staying healthy and working towards playing a complete season without injuries.
“I love it here,” he then added. “I can’t really tell the future. We’ll just see how it goes and go from there. … For sure. The main thing is winning. Life is better when you win.”
His coach, Steve Clifford, admitted he feared that if the team didn’t start to win, all his star players would eventually leave. During the exit interviews, LaMelo was the first on his mind.
“He badly wants to win,”he said of the 21-year-old. “When you’re at his level, there are certain expectations. You’re going to be compared to the other point guards his age that have had not incredible playoff success but have had some. It’s important to his career.”