LaMelo Ball made his return to the lineup immediately known on Saturday night after missing six weeks with a fractured wrist.
The NBA Rookie of the Year candidate notched an assist 21 seconds into the Charlotte Hornets’ 107-84 win against the Detroit Pistons at home. But it was a full-court assist minutes later that solidified his needed presence on the Hornets’ court.
Following an offensive rebound, Ball launched an underhand arcing pass the length of the court — an estimated 80 feet — to hit Miles Bridges in stride at the baseline.
Bridges, 23, was impressed with the assist after his own 27-point performance on 11-for-16 shooting. He had seven rebounds and four assists
“That underhanded pass was crazy,” he said, via ESPN. “You got to have top-notch confidence to pull something like that off.”
So was Hornets coach James Borrego. Via ESPN:
“Maybe we should be teaching the Melo underhand flip,” Borrego said. “He’s the only guy I know [who can do that]. Maybe [Manu] Ginobili would have thrown that, as well. I’ve seen Manu throw some crazy stuff out there. I put Melo in that same Manu category.”
For the 19-year-old Ball, who had 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, it was simply another “normal” pass.
“It kind of felt normal, I’m not even going to lie to you,” Ball said, adding he grew up playing a fast-pace game with his father, LaVar, and brothers, Lonzo and LiAngelo.
“Yeah, facts. Definitely,” Ball said when asked to confirm he called such a pass “normal.” “Just playing when we was young, it was pretty much passes like that every play.”
Ball, considered an early lock for Rookie of the Year, has been out for six weeks with a fractured right wrist. The Hornets went 10-11 without him and fell to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference standings. They were 3-8 in the last 11 games before Saturday’s return of Ball and Malik Monk, who suffered a right ankle sprain. There are nine games left for the Hornets to try and make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Ball is still in Rookie of the Year contention, but now has top-line company in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards and the Sacramento Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton.
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