Two of the worst teams in the NBA met on Wednesday night when the 10-win Houston Rockets hosted the 11-win Charlotte Hornets. Although the Hornets defeated the Rockets by five points, 122-117, they lost starting point guard LaMelo Ball to another ankle injury.
Ball collided with teammate PJ Washington early in the third quarter, spraining his left ankle for a third time this season. He needed assistance off the court.
Despite losing Ball, the Hornets ended a five-game losing streak and improved to 12-34 on the season. The Hornets covered the point spread as -3 road favorites, but they’re one of the worst betting teams in the NBA this season with a 19-25-2 record against the spread.
After losing to the Hornets, the Rockets are now 10-35 and have the worst overall record in the NBA. They’re also in last place in the Western Conference.
Buzz City Bottom Feeders
The Hornets are in 14th place out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. Only the Detroit Pistons have a worse record at 12-35. The Hornets are 22 games behind the first-place Boston Celtics. The Hornets are also far back in the race for the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament, trailing the 10th-place Chicago Bulls by nine games.
The Hornets remain in last place in the Southeast Division. The Miami Heat (25-21) have a 13-game lead over the Hornets in the division, and the Heat have more than twice as many victories (25) as the Hornets (12). The Hornets have astronomical odds as +100000 long shots to win the Southeast.
The Hornets are one of five teams at the bottom of DraftKings’ NBA futures board. They’re +100000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, along with the Rockets, Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, and Orlando Magic.
The Hornets can improve their chances to win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery as one of the three worst teams in the NBA this season. If the Hornets want to maintain their spot at the bottom of the standings, then they’ll trade away a few starters leading up to the trade deadline on February 9.
Guard Kelly Oubre, forward Gordon Hayward, guard Terry Rozier, center Mason Plumlee, and forward Jalen McDaniels have all been mentioned in trade rumors.
If the Hornets engage in a fire sale prior to the trade deadline, they’ll gut the team but keep Ball. With Ball as the centerpiece, the Hornets will try to rebuild around him next season.
Ball Played in Only 22 Games this Season
The Hornets have been ravaged with injuries this season, including Ball (ankle), Oubre (hand), and Hayward (shoulder). Ball had an unfortunate season and will now get sidelined for a third time with an ankle injury.
During a preseason game, Ball sprained his left ankle and missed the first 13 games of the season with his first injury.
In mid-November, Ball appeared in just three games before he sprained the same left ankle. He stepped on a fan sitting in the front row at courtside while chasing a loose ball against the Indiana Pacers. The second ankle injury knocked Ball out for 11 games.
Ball returned to the Hornets in mid-December. He looked spectacular in the final 10 games of the month by averaging 25.0 points, 8.2 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game. He also shot 39.1% from 3-point range.
Ball appeared in only 19 games before he sustained a third ankle injury. While playing the Rockets in Houston on Wednesday night, teammate PJ Washington stepped on Ball’s left ankle, which he sprained in October and again in November.
Overall, Ball appeared in 22 games this season. He’s averaging a career-high 23.5 points and 8.2 assists per game.
Ball is listed as day-to-day on the injury report, but local beat reporters think he’ll miss a couple of weeks. Since the Hornets aren’t fighting for a spot in the playoffs, it would make sense to shut him down through All-Star Weekend, which would provide him with four-plus weeks to recover.
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