New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball is back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after missing the last two games to illness:
Lonzo Ball (stomach virus) will return to the starting lineup against Oklahoma City tonight without restrictions, per #Pelicans HC Alvin Gentry. Derrick Favors (personal reasons) and Kenrich Williams (left ankle sprain) are OUT. Okafor starting at center.
— 𝕿𝖗𝖊𝖛𝖔𝖗 𝕸. 𝕽𝖎𝖙𝖈𝖍𝖎𝖊 (@ritchietmr) December 1, 2019
Ball has played in just 11 games due to an assortment of injuries and maladies, but he is healthy enough to suit up as the Pelicans look to get revenge on the Thunder.
The 22-year-old has struggled to get going even when he has been healthy. Ball has started in eight of the 11 games that he has appeared in, but Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has also benched him for long stretches during the fourth quarter of games.
Ball is averaging 11.1 points, 5.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds while shooting just under 39 percent from the field. He has improved his three-point efficiency on more attempts per game (6.4) this season, but his midrange game has left much to be desired and he has shown some reluctance in penetrating the defense.
However, the early health questions are probably the greatest concern. Ball missed 65 games in his first two seasons with the Lakers, and now he has missed over 40 percent of his team’s games this year. The Pelicans asked for Ball as one of the centerpieces of the Anthony Davis trade, so they need for him to stay healthy and find his mojo in Gentry’s offensive system.
New Orleans fell to 6-13 after their loss to OKC, although the offense has not been the problem. Jrue Holiday has rebounded from a slow start, and Brandon Ingram is showcasing his All-Star potential.
But the Pelicans have missed Ball on the defensive end, where they rank 29th in opponents scoring according to Basketball-Reference. Perhaps his return can help New Orleans get back on track and avoid losing a fifth straight.